Coffeehouse Supplies: A–Z Needs of a Coffee Shop

A Scooter's Coffee branded cup on an espresso machine.

So, you’ve purchased or ordered the key equipment you’ll need for your coffeehouse. That’s one of the fun parts of the process. Today’s coffee shop equipment works efficiently to produce world-class beverages and food items to enhance the experience for your customers. It all combines to deliver the flavors, look, and feel of what they expect in a coffeehouse. But that’s just the start.

Think about your coffee shop like a car. Your equipment is your engine, but an engine needs fuel and much more to run smoothly. The fuel of a coffeehouse is found in its day-to-day supplies.

What Do I Need Besides Coffee Shop Supplies?

Besides your back-of-house hardware, you’ll need many supplies for your coffeehouse ongoing. A franchise brand can make this easier than it might be for an independent startup. Here are just a few of the kinds of coffee shop supplies you will need, including a few invaluable, intangible ones, from A-Z.

A: Aprons

Foodservice can get messy, and every barista needs a good apron. Luckily, uniform purveyors can supply anything from very basic white aprons to more customized, logo-embroidered looks with pockets for barista implements, pens, and more.

B: Beans

It all starts with the quality of beans. Part of the fun of getting your coffeehouse ready is testing and selecting amazing beans for your operation to create world-class coffee. The need for the best beans is why Scooter’s Coffee® only roasts from the top 10 percent of specialty coffee beans in the world. Determine which beans strike the right balance for your goals.

C: Cups and Containers

There are few coffee shop supplies that are as important as your cups. Try out different options and decide what you like best. Chances are, your customers will have the same preference. It could be insulated paper cups or cups with cardboard sleeves with your brand’s logo. Remember that the cup offers a key way to spread your name as customers get out and about with your coffee in hand. You’ll also need containers for food to go. One of the benefits of partnering with a franchise is that all of your cups and containers will be picked out for you. Every cup, from the material to the logo, is thoroughly tested to ensure the best product for your customers.

D: Drinks

It’s easy to become so consumed with the coffees themselves that you may forget to devote planning to other beverage offerings. Sometimes customers — including those who come to your coffeehouse with a coffee-loving friend but aren’t themselves coffee fans — may be in the mood for a smoothie or other seasonal beverage, so be sure to offer more than just coffee. Tea will be in high demand; more on that below.

E: Electric Outlets

Yes, it’s obvious that you’ll need electrical utility service, but don’t forget to plan ahead. Be sure you have enough outlets for your coffee shop machinery and also for customers’ laptops and charging their devices. A depleted battery on a device usually results in a customer leaving. Think about your layout, and place several power sources in proximity to seating clusters. If customers are plugged into your outlets, they are plugged into you.

F: Food

You likely want to keep your concept simple, and not try to be all things to all people, but food is one of those core offerings that many consumers expect to find at the place they get coffee. It adds to their ticket total and can keep them in your establishment to spend even more. Whether your menu is limited to muffins and cake pops or encompasses bagel sandwiches and wraps, food can increase your revenues if kept to a reasonable cost and produced efficiently without much added labor. The right choices of equipment can help in that regard. Or, you might partner with a local bakery for fresh fare.

G: Grab-and-Go Snacks

In addition to more substantial food offerings — or instead of them, depending on how simple you intend to keep your menu — consider offering prepackaged, sweet and savory snack items for customers in need of a quick bite on the go.

H: Honey

See also “S” below about sweeteners, but honey is in a class of its own. Make sure to “bee” at the ready with honey for coffee and tea.

I: Ice

Customers will love smoothies, iced tea, and other iced drinks, such as cold brew, so make sure you have a ready supply of ice. Talk with equipment vendors to choose the right ice machine(s) for your operation. Consider factors including your projected sales and traffic, your back-of-house space, what shape and size ice you want, and more.

J: Jars and Canisters:

This might fall into the coffee shop equipment category, but you will need jars and canisters for food items, condiments, and much more.

K: Knowledge

Another intangible you’ll need in steady supply is knowledge. Labor turnover is a challenge in today’s foodservice industry, so making sure team members are trained well is crucial. A cup of incorrectly brewed coffee or a poorly prepared food item can turn a customer off and lose a repeat visit. Operators of franchise locations have a helping hand when it comes to programs and resources for efficiently training team members.

L: Lids

As important as your to-go cups are your lids. Test and test again to determine what you think is the best option. Make sure your lids fit securely onto your cups and don’t create a dribble down the customer’s chin each time she takes a sip. Remember: the sip is your ultimate point of contact, and a sloppy one caused by a poor quality cup or lid can make or break return business. This is another time when being a franchise partner is helpful because you can count on your lids being reliable.

M: Mugs

Depending on your concept, you may choose to serve coffee to non-to-go customers in mugs. Even if you only serve coffee in paper cups normally, consider selling branded mugs as an up-sell. Insulated mugs are a great retail sales item, and you can even offer an incentive for customers to buy them, such as offering $1 refills of the mugs. And it keeps them coming back, loyal to your location.

N: Napkins

Napkins are another must-have, to catch and wipe drips and minor spills as well as mouths. Enough said!

O: Organic and Origins

“Organic” and “single-origin” are important watchwords for consumers. Scooter’s Coffee, for example, answers the demand with hot and iced organic teas and single-origin coffees.

P: Prep Space

Included in necessary supplies is a good amount of prep space, with a prep table — for food items and any other prep work that needs to be done. This is something to consider when laying out your back-of-house footprint.

Q: Questions

This one’s an intangible commodity you should keep in great supply. To be successful, you’ll need to constantly ask questions of yourself and your business. This helps you determine how to improve going forward. If you choose a franchise coffeehouse concept, you’ll find that your franchise company has answers to questions you haven’t even thought of yet. What’s more, they can help answer questions that arrive as your business — and theirs — evolves.

R: Rags

Your team will be wiping and cleaning from before opening for the day until after closing. Be sure to have plenty of clean rags.

S: Sweeteners, Syrups, and Spices

Wouldn’t it be simple if everyone took their coffee black? Alas, many want a touch of sweetness, so you’ll need to have syrups for baristas behind the counter as well as options for customers to finish off their coffee. That means stocking an ample supply of sugar, raw sugar, artificial sweeteners, Stevia, spices, and more. It’s up to you how extensive your selection is. You can expand or contract the array of sweeteners based on customer feedback after you get rolling.

T: Tea

Tea’s popularity shows no signs of slowing, and consumers expect to find tea in coffeehouses. It’s especially important to offer tea since a group of friends may include one or two people who want tea while others want coffee. If you don’t have both, they’ll all go elsewhere.

U: Utensils

From spoons, forks, and knives to stir sticks and straws, you can’t do without utensils. Disposables are a must for customers. Depending on your concept, you may also want to have washable options on hand.

V: Veggie and Fruit Smoothies

In line with food and non-coffee drinks, smoothies have become ubiquitous at coffeehouses. Fresh veggie and fruit smoothies provide a healthy, refreshing alternative or addition to coffee orders, and customers may expect their favorite coffeehouse to offer them.

W: Wi-Fi

Free internet access for customers is a must now. If you don’t have it, they might pop in for a cup to go, but they won’t hang around and spend more on coffee and food. It’s also a draw for groups of people who need a spot for a meeting over coffee and lunch. Today’s coffeehouse is more than a place to grab a cup. A coffeehouse is a hangout, refuge, and business meeting spot. But not without Wi-Fi.

X: Sirius XM

You’ll need a good source of background music that you can set and forget. Consider subscribing to a service such as SiriusXM, and you can easily change from one themed channel to another throughout the day as your crowd and atmosphere shift.

Y: You

It can’t be overstated: YOU, yourself, your talented baristas, and your team will be among your most critical supplies. An eye for talent, passion, and perseverance are all traits you’ll find in successful coffee shop owners. The human factor — labor with a smile — drives everything. Don’t get so wrapped up in ordering your napkins and coffee beans that you don’t take time and give significant thought to who you hire.

Z: Zen

Finally, here’s another key intangible. Starting any business creates a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. The more you try to keep yourself in a zen state of calm attentiveness, following intuition, the more successful you’ll be. Operators of a franchise coffeehouse have a big head start in this regard. When an operator has support from a company that has already gone through a lot of trial and error to determine best practices, they can be much calmer in the face of challenges. A franchisee also benefits from ongoing market research and improvement of best practices from a brand that sees the big picture.

We hope this helps flesh out your growing list of what you’ll need to open and operate your own coffeehouse. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but at least you have a general idea of what you can expect. This list may feel overwhelming, but don’t worry, our affiliate company, Harvest Roasting, has you covered! See our list of coffee shop equipment for a more detailed understanding of everything that goes into running a successful coffeehouse.