Opening a bookstore cafe

Update: May 15, 2023

By: Tom Macken

Open a bookstore cafe how to

70% of Americans drink coffee every week. Do you want to combine your passion for reading and your love of coffee and have the idea of ​​opening a bookstore cafe? Find all you need to know on how to open a bookstore cafe below.


Training needed to open a bookstore cafe?
5 tips for opening a bookstore cafe business
Regulations for opening a bookstore cafe?
What business structure should I use to open a bookstore cafe?

Training needed to open a bookstore cafe?

A college degree or qualification is not required in order to open a bookstore café. Experience in the field or in business is encouraged but not needed either. 

Local colleges like four-year private or public universities or two-year community colleges also have classes that you can take. Consider looking into one of those institutions to take a class on small business management or entrepreneurship to boost your confidence and knowledge base.

What can be helpful is continued education, like certification programs in the coffee business, through which you’ll learn barista skills, brewing, how to keep your business green, and how to roast properly.

Useful coffee certifications include the:

  • Specialty Coffee Association’s Coffee Skills program
  • Coffee Sustainability from the Specialty Coffee Association 
  • Coffee Technicians from the Specialty Coffee Association 
  • Coffee House Owner Certificate course from the International Association of Professionals Career College

On the bookstore element, no formal training is needed however one of your top priorities should be keeping up on current bestsellers and new and classic books in all manner of specialties and subject areas. 

What typically sets apart independent bookstores from their online and brick-and-mortar chain competitors is the intimate knowledge of books that bookstore owners and staff can convey. 

Customers walking into your bookstore cafe may expect you to provide them with your personal book list and/or coffee recommendations!

5 tips for opening a bookstore cafe business

1 – Find your niche

You must take the time to study where you want to open up the café, what items you want to sell, who you will be selling to, why you want to enter this industry, and more.

Most cafés today have what we call a niche. A niche is your specialty, something that you can offer that other coffee shops may not have. But wait, isn’t a bookstore and coffee shop in one already a niche? Well, yes, it is! But with its increasing popularity, it is also good to find something that will make you stand out within this market.

For example, you may want to add some art in your café, making it a bookstore, art gallery, and café in one. Maybe you want to create specialty coffee based on the best-selling books of all time. Or maybe, you want to stick to a classical theme for the design, books, and coffee that you sell.

Whatever niche you select, you should read up on it first to learn if the niche will click with all the other elements of your café. Bonus points if you are passionate about the niche you choose, too.

2 – Choose a good location

As part of your business plan on how to open a bookstore cafe, you must select a good location. Choosing a space for your shop has more than a few considerations.

  • Do you plan on having a wide space for several bookshelves plus the coffee shop, or do you want a small, cozy place for everything?
  • Do you plan on using standard tables and chairs, or do you want comfortable furniture like couches and bean bags?
  • Do you want your bookstore café to be situated in the downtown business district, or do you want it to be more like a community café in which locals can spend a whole afternoon?
  • What is your budget for the lease of the space?

These are just a few questions that you must consider when choosing a location. Make sure that you always consider the type of customers that you want in your café, and of course, the budget.

3 – Work on your finances

Your project is developing now but you’ll need to firm up on the figures. For this, you’ll need to develop a business plan for your bookstore cafe project and its financial plan. This is an essential step to ensure the success of your business. 

It lists all your expenses and allows you to estimate your revenues. The business plan will allow you to validate the profitability of your project. This is when you can decide if you need to use financing solutions and which particular options would work best: Bank loan, crowdfunding, investors or something different. 

The business plan is generally required by the banks or other financial partners from which you apply for financing and therefore should be clear, precise and complete. You may need a business starter loan from your local bank, Credit Union or avail or start your business with loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration

Good to know: The budget needed to open a bookstore cafe depends on the investments needed for the premises and its layout, the equipment, the cash requirement at launch and more. Prospective owners should budget an estimate of between $60,000 to $100,000 depending on the above items. 

4 – Equip yourself with the right business tools

To ensure your business runs smoothly, it’s in your best interest to equip yourself with powerful and efficient tools. In particular, you’ll need to:

  • Open a business bank account
  • Obtain a POS system to allow customers to buy books or cups of coffee with a credit card
  • Use accounting software to record day-to-day financial transactions and/or use an online accountant
  • Choose a cash register software adapted to cafes

From an inventory point of view, you should consider your:

  • Store layout – tables and chairs, bookshelves, coffee counter, kitchen, comfort rooms, and overall design
  • Coffee menu – includes initial inventory, types of coffees to be served
  • Book inventory – includes what genres you want to stock, brand new or secondhand books
  • Personnel – number of staff
  • Store design – includes the overall theme, design, lighting, music, and art

5 – Market your business

As your established business or your new coffee shop bookstore gets ready to open the doors, you will want to invest in marketing your coffee shop bookstore like crazy! Marketing like crazy doesn’t have to be expensive however but it should be well-thought-through.

Take care of the basics like developing your logo and brand, set up your coffee shop website, open your social media accounts, and reach out to bloggers and local media. You may also need a total make-over and rebranding, so you will want to figure that into your overall budget.

Communicating about your activity and collecting the opinions of your customers is a good solution to engage your customers in your project and to improve yourself, always with the pursuit of customer satisfaction. 

A Google Business page, a professional website, a presence on social networks are good ways to talk about your café-bookstore, attract new customers, retain them and create a community around your activity.

Social Media

Choose a couple of platforms and learn them in and out. For bookstore cafes, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Pinterest are excellent. If you spend time on social media, be sure to post content for when your followers are most active to maximize the engagement. 

Ensure your images that you post on Instagram are eye-catching, photos that will make your audience stop scrolling and click onto your profile to see more. 

Your bookstore cafe Grand Opening

Having a “grand opening” weekend or month will drive community awareness, buzz, and excitement. Your grand opening should be the start of your year-long master marketing plan to introduce yourself to your community and your customers. Hook them in with loyalty cards and stay laser-focused on building relationships.

Invite local authors to discuss their books. Host music events if possible. Partner with schools, colleges, or senior organizations to boost your traffic as you celebrate your opening.

Regulations for opening a bookstore cafe?

To open a bookstore café, you’ll need to pay attention to certain business obligations and requirements, some of which are specific to the coffee business and others to the bookstore business.

Before opening

A coffee shop bookstore requires obtaining permits necessary for a bookstore and a cafe. For example, a bookstore cafe in America requires permits like a business license, occupancy certificate, foodservice license, food handler’s permit, music license, seller’s permit, and others. 

When choosing a location for your bookstore coffee shop, you should be aware of the zoning requirements. Depending on your location, the government will have zoning and development regulations in place, and these regulations are enforced to ensure public health and safety.

Understand what permits are required in your country/city and ensure you have them in place to avoid any complications. 

You may also have display obligations including:

  • Tax-inclusive prices of beverages and food displayed inside the café
  • Menu ingredients and allergies
  • Payment methods accepted

It may also be mandatory to take out professional insurance before opening your bookstore café. 

Library management

As a bookseller, you may also have a number of obligations to consider with regard to the sale of books including the:

What business structure should I use to open a bookstore cafe?

When setting up a bookstore cafe, you’ll need to think about what business structure will work best. 

Many prospective business owners find themselves lost in the complexity of understanding and indeed choosing between an LLC, a sole proprietorship, a partnership or another alternative. 

In the case of bookstore cafes, we advise you to choose one of these legal forms:

  • A Limited Liability Company (LLC) for one or multiple owners
  • Sole proprietorship if you own an unincorporated business by yourself

LLC’s are often preferred as, unlike a sole proprietorship, their business structure in the U.S. protects its owners from personal responsibility for its debts or liabilities.

An attorney or accountant can also explain to you how to open a bookstore cafe or you can choose a professional company formation service. These services offer excellent legal advice and business formations at a fraction of the price of a traditional attorney. 


How much does it cost to open a bookstore cafe?

Opening a bookstore cafe can cost anywhere from $60,000 – over $100,000 depending on the level of books purchased, cafe design features, labor required and other costs. 

What do bookstores sell besides books?

Bookstores can sell a variety of items including coffee, board games, educational games, journals, notebooks, toys, movies, albums, maps, bookmarks and more. 

Can you open a bookstore cafe without a degree?

A degree is not required in order to open a bookstore cafe. Some training is recommended to understand the basics of the coffee process and purchasing books and other inventory. 

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