How to start a coffee shop in South Africa

How to start a coffee shop in South Africa

A lot of people start their day with coffee and drink coffee throughout most of their day. This is a guide on how to start a coffee shop in South Africa.


Most people go to the coffee because of the environment, they don’t really go there because they are really looking for coffee. They use coffee shops as a place to unwind, think, host small meetings and as a spot for dates.

This is something that you should keep in mind, most of the people who will come to your coffee shop will be coffee lovers but they are coming for more than that. You will miss out on getting customers if you don’t make the environment welcoming and relaxing.

Find the right location

Coffee shops are similar to other types of restaurants, the location of the coffee shop is of utmost importance. You should make sure that it is in an area that is easily accessible and receives a lot of foot traffic. This is why most coffee shops tend to be inside malls, however, renting in a mall is very expensive and will cut deeply into your profits.

The coffee shop has to be in a convenient location that is also safe, preferably in a high-income neighbourhood or town.

Design the floor plan

This is more important than most people think, the floor plan has to be very easy to navigate. This goes from deciding where customers will stand when forming a line, where they will sit, where the cashier will be and the restrooms.

You have to imagine yourself walking into the place, how far will the cashier be from you and how many tables you need to pass. Will the be enough space between the tables for people to walk, should there be an area with more tables than the other? Those are all the questions you should ask yourself, it’s important to make sure that there is enough space for all that.

Do renovations

You might be leasing a space that was previously a furniture shop, you are going to spend some money on renovations. The premises need to be renovated so that they meet the theme and feel of a normal coffee shop. This is where you are going to spend a lot of money, renovations are expensive.

This is also the stage where you build the counters, add more windows to allow natural lighting, add new lights and maybe change the floor completely. After this, the only thing that should be left is the actual equipment that is needed to run the business, everything else should be in place.

Design the menu

It’s best to design the menu early on, it will help you decide which equipment to buy. The menu should not only be limited to coffee, you can add cake and other things that generally go well with coffee. Most people will come into your coffee shop, sit down and enjoy your coffee, it’s best to make it worth their while.

Buy equipment

The equipment can be very expensive, ranging from a couple of thousand Rands to over R200 000. You can always get some second-hand equipment which will be way cheaper. Deciding which one is good enough for you should be easy if you already have experience with coffee brewing, which you should.

Work on branding

Branding is super important for any B2C (business to consumer) business. It’s what will set your coffee shop apart and memorable. People will constantly return to your coffee shop if it gives them great value for money. This includes your name, logo and how you position your business.

The branding is further enhanced by how to design the floor plan and your premises in general, people should not feel like your place is not classy.

Get permits and licenses

You will need to meet certain health and safety requirements. These are rules that generally govern hygiene for food related businesses. A certificate of acceptability will be provided to you should you meet all the requirements. You will also need to register your business, which only costs R175 when done through the CIPC. Trademarking is something that you might also be interested in but it’s not absolutely necessary and you can put it off for later.

Hire the right staff

Consider all the roles that need to be filled in your business, from baristas to dishwashers. It’s always best to start with an experienced team, they demand higher pay but they are worth it. You should budget at least 3 months’ salary for your employees. Business may be slow but they will still need to be paid.

Invest in marketing

A coffee shop in a good location will market itself, there is a very high chance that you will get customers on the first day of opening. You can boost this traffic by registering the shop on directories, this makes it easier for people to find it when searching online. Invest in billboard advertising and flyers. A little social media marketing won’t hurt but it’s not where you should focus.


This was a guide on how to start a coffee shop in South Africa. Do you have any thoughts or questions? Comment below.

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