When I wrote my business plan, I designed it for a sit down coffee shop, with or without a drive thru (the mix as I call it). However, it can be adapted to any of these forms. Here are some points to consider for each type when planning to open a coffee shop:
Sit down (and mix) – most advantageous if you are planning on having entertainment and events. This would be considered, more often than not the full-service coffee shop. Outside of the purist coffee house that serves nothing but coffee in only a few forms, most sit downs serve light foods to full menus, also called cafes. The mix is pretty much adding a drive thru window if space allows. A drive thru window can add as much as 20% more revenue to your sales because of its convenience.
Drive thru (stand alone) – usually a lesser start up cost, you can have your drive thru constructed off-site by a company specializing in such for about $20,000 or less. A lot of times you can get a ground lease from the owner of a parking lot that does not need all that parking space. Be sure to consult with the city planning department to be sure you can do this. It will most likely require a certain square footage of lot space for employee parking and customer vehicle ‘stacking’. This is a fancy way to say how many cars can be in line at your drive through window on your property and still allow easy flow in and out and, to still have enough space for the other tenants in the plaza. Note that if your city and/or health department does not allow portable water and sewage onsite, you will be required to install plumbing and sewer. This can get costly but if the location is prime, it will outweigh your upfront costs.
You can also find a stand-alone building that can be converted to a drive thru. Gas stations and some former fast food places (without an inside dining area) are good for this. On the gas station, be sure to visit your city planning and zoning department to be sure you can convert it into a coffee drive through. You may have an issue with the car stacking again.
Kiosk – these are great for malls, hospitals, car dealerships or anywhere that you do not have or need a storefront. It’s a step above the cart (below) because the kiosk is pretty much a coffee shop that can be taken down and moved fairly easy. They are basically a prefabricated, fancy group of counters all connected together. It gives the feel of a stand-alone coffee shop. A lot of jewelry places and such have these in malls.
Cart – That pretty much says it all. A cart will cost you from $8000-12,000 or so to have built. They are also usually found in malls, car dealerships, hospitals etc. They have considerably less room than a kiosk but are a great option if you want to be in a mall or the like. You would normally be limited to serving food and bakery that is pre-packaged.
No matter what kind of coffee shop you decide to open, be sure you have researched it all, and are ready to be very immersed in it all! It will take up a lot of your time but will be worth it in the long run! Good luck!