Coffee Shop Essentials Checklist

Whether it’s served hot or cold, straight up black or blended, the coffee industry shows no signs of letting up or letting down the millions of people who crave their daily fix. 

With so many Americans choosing to support local businesses, the smaller, independent coffee shops are becoming social anchors in the community and a great way for an entrepreneur to get a sip of the good life as a business owner.  According to Statista, in 2015, there were approximately 31,500 specialty coffee shops in the US, with the big chains like Starbucks, Dunkin’, and Tim Horton’s owning the market share of properties. Although the "big box coffee shops" sales have been flat, trade magazines report that independent coffee shops are sprouting up all over the country and commanding consumer dollars. That being said, the number of new coffee shops in the US is expected to increase by 3.8 percent in 2019 and moving forward, as predicted by Daily Coffee News.


But what does this mean for the independent coffee shop owner/operator?  What does it take to run a successful coffee shop? For a small business owner, the key is in the right coffee shop equipment from the start.  A top-notch coffee shop supplies list looks like this: 

Automatic Drip Coffee Makers and Espresso Machines

Obviously, you can't have a coffee shop without a coffee machine. Do your homework. There is a wide variety out there. Talk to friends in the business, do online research and visit retailers to learn what you need to know about the machines that will make or break your business.


An Industrial Coffee Grinder 

There are two distinct varieties of coffee grinders: burr or blade. A burr grinder has two revolving surfaces (conical or flat) that grind the coffee bean uniformly and is preferred by most coffee aficionados. A blade grinder has rotating blades that slice the beans into grounds, like most home coffee grinders. It’s a matter of cost and preference to the coffee shop owner, but definitely one of the most critical pieces of coffee shop equipment.

Quality Coffee

While not exactly equipment, high quality coffee beans should be at the top of the list of your coffee shop supplies. Your customer expects something different, so be discriminating when selecting your beans because they’ll become your brand. If your beans are organic or fair trade or any other current marketing buzz words, be sure to use them in your marketing campaign to command a price hike. Check out Specialty Java, a wholesale coffee bean company that offers dozens of varieties of coffee beans that range from basic to gourmet.



Traditional dairy is still the norm for most coffee drinkers, but if you don’t offer a wide variety of milk products and milk substitutes, your customers will spend their dollars elsewhere. Many people are opting for nut and seed ‘non-dairy milks’ like almond, coconut, rice, soy, and even hemp. Make sure your customer sees a selection of milk and non-dairy beverage offerings on the menu board and they will keep coming back.


Storage and Refrigeration

Nothing will cost your establishment more than unorganized storage which can result in food waste (shrinkage) and employee frustration. Find sturdy, functional shelving and refrigeration options that fit your unique design aesthetic and promote an efficiently run operation.


 Appliances and Supplies

Durable, industrial grade toasters, blenders, and microwaves should be part of your coffee shop inventory. Customers will want heated pastries, breads, and sandwiches and the occasional reheat of a beverage. You'll also need a steady supply of paper products and servingware. 


A POS System

Customers expect a speedy check-out, especially at a coffee shop where the lines can often be long and the need for a coffee fix is strong. A speedy, practical and reliable POS system can not only enhance your customer’s buying experience, but track sales, collect customer information, allow for multiple forms of payment, manage staffing, and compute inventory all at the same time. Take care to choose the best POS system for your venue and focus on your customers! Find a service with a Cloud backup in case of sudden power outages.


Free WiFi

As an ‘insta-office’ for the digital nomad, a hang-out for the local teens or a social hub for busy moms, skimping on reliable WiFi will drive your customers to the big boys (read: Starbucks) even if your coffee is better. Tie in your WiFi to a cloud-based POS System for ease of use and affordability.

Deciding to open a coffee shop is an exciting journey and a commitment to your community as an entrepreneur. With a little research, workable financing, and guidance from trusted sources, your shop can thrive.

There is a more detailed guide specifically on coffee shop equipment options, which also includes a complete supplies list and helpful suggestions on starting your business.