What Are Coffee Shop Prime Costs And How Are They Calculated

11 Minutes Read

Optimizing Prime Cost for Coffee Shop Startup Success: Essentials for Opening a Coffee Shop



Many owners overlook the critical concept of prime costs, which can make or break your business. This article is for coffee shop owners and aspiring entrepreneurs who want to master their finances.

What factors contribute to the prime cost in running a coffee shop?

What is Coffee Shop Prime Cost?

Prime cost is a key financial metric in the food and beverage industry for anyone looking to start a coffee shop. It includes the total cost of goods sold (COGS) and labor costs. COGS covers all the ingredients and supplies used to brew your specialty coffee, such as coffee beans, milk, and syrups.

Labor costs encompass wages, salaries, and benefits for your baristas and other staff. These are the primary expenses directly tied to producing and serving your espresso and other specialty beverages.

Importance of Prime Cost in a Coffee Shop

Monitoring prime cost helps in maintaining a successful coffee shop. By keeping a close eye on these costs, coffee shop owners can make informed decisions on pricing, menu offerings, and staffing levels. This ensures the business remains financially healthy.

Effective prime cost management helps optimize expenses and maximize profit margins, allowing you to invest in essentials like a high-quality espresso machine, decor, and inventory for a better customer experience.

How to Calculate Coffee Shop Prime Cost

To calculate prime cost, sum your total COGS and total labor costs:

Prime Cost = COGS + Labor Costs

Examples of Calculating Coffee Shop Prime Cost

Example 1: Small Coffee Shop


  • Coffee beans: $500
  • Milk and other ingredients: $300
  • Pastries and snacks: $200
  • Syrups: $100

Total COGS: $1,100

Labor Costs:

  • Baristas' wages: $1,200
  • Manager's salary: $800
  • Benefits: $200

Total Labor Costs: $2,200

Prime Cost:

Prime Cost = $1,100 + $2,200 = $3,300

Example 2: Medium Coffee Shop


  • Coffee beans: $1,200
  • Milk and other ingredients: $600
  • Pastries and snacks: $400
  • Syrups: $200

Total COGS: $2,400

Labor Costs:

  • Baristas' wages: $2,000
  • Manager's salary: $1,500
  • Benefits: $300

Total Labor Costs: $3,800

Prime Cost:

Prime Cost = $2,400 + $3,800 = $6,200

Strategies to Reduce Prime Cost

Optimize Inventory Management

  • Track Stock: Use a robust inventory management system to monitor stock levels and reduce waste. Many coffee shops and coffee businesses have found success with this approach.
  • Negotiate Pricing: Work with suppliers for better pricing or bulk purchase discounts. This helps you reduce costs and make a splash in the competitive market.

Streamline Labor Efficiency

  • Smart Scheduling: Schedule staff based on peak hours to avoid overstaffing. You’ll need to ensure that your baristas are available when foot traffic is highest.
  • Cross-Train Employees: Train baristas to perform multiple roles, enhancing flexibility and efficiency. Barista training maximizes labor utility.

Menu Engineering

  • Profit Analysis: Analyze the profitability of each item on your menu and focus on promoting high-margin items like cappuccinos and baked goods. This is part of the cost breakdown for a successful business model.
  • Menu Updates: Regularly update the menu to reflect changes in ingredient costs and customer preferences. Items on your menu should adapt to current coffee culture trends.

Implement Technology

  • Use POS Systems: Utilize point of sale (POS) systems to gain insights into sales patterns and labor usage. This is vital for managing payroll and optimizing your coffee shop’s profitability.
  • Automate Tasks: Invest in automation for repetitive tasks to save on labor costs. This helps you streamline operations and improve return on investment.

Coffee Shop Prime Costs Impact

Pricing Strategy

Prime costs directly influence your pricing strategy. You’ll need to price items to cover the cost of goods sold (COGS) and labor while ensuring a profit. Analyze your POS system data to adjust prices based on costs and market trends.

Quality of Offerings

Balancing prime costs without compromising quality is significant. High-quality ingredients and skilled baristas enhance customer experience and loyalty, but you’ll also need to manage these costs to maintain profitability. Investing in quality can drive higher prices and customer satisfaction.

How Are Coffee Shop Prime Costs Reflected in Financial Statements

Prime costs appear on your income statement as part of COGS and labor expenses. They impact your gross profit and overall profitability. Regularly reviewing these costs helps you make informed decisions to keep your coffee shop business financially healthy.

Further reading: What Are Restaurant Prime Costs And How Are They Calculated

How Accountants and Bookkeepers Help in Managing Coffee Shop Prime Costs

  • Accurate Record-Keeping: Ensure all costs related to coffee brewing, labor, and inventory are accurately recorded.
  • Financial Analysis: Provide detailed analytics on costs, helping you understand where you’re able to save money.
  • Budgeting: Help you set realistic budgets for equipment for a coffee shop, labor, and inventory based on national coffee industry standards.
  • Cost Management: Identify areas where you can reduce costs without compromising quality, essential for keeping start-up costs under control.
  • Compliance: Ensure you meet all financial regulations and maintain necessary licenses, such as a business license and certificate of occupancy.
  • Strategic Planning: Assist in writing a business plan and developing a financial strategy that includes equipment costs, labor, and other expenses.
  • Profitability: Help you understand and improve your return on investment, ensuring your café or drive-thru is profitable.
  • Pandemic Response: Offer guidance on navigating financial challenges posed by the pandemic, helping you adapt to changes in the coffee shop industry.

Further reading: 5 Bookkeeping Tips for Coffee Shops

Opening a Coffee Shop in 2023 and 2024

Finding the Right Place

Choosing the right location is fundamental. Whether you plan to open in a bustling city or a quiet suburb, the location will significantly impact your business. It's essential to find a spot that fits your target market and budget. Prime costs like rent and utilities are significant, so finding an affordable yet strategic location is key.

Equipment Needs and Costs

Like any business, a coffee shop requires specific equipment. You'll have to cover the costs of espresso machines, grinders, brewers, and other essentials. This can cost around $10,000 to $30,000 depending on the quality and brand. Managing these prime costs effectively can determine your initial financial health.

Creating a Business Formula

Every business needs a solid plan. Developing a business formula will help you outline your vision, target market, and financial projections. This strategic plan will guide you through the initial stages and help you control prime costs.

Covering Initial Costs

Starting a coffee shop requires significant investment. You’ll have to cover prime costs such as rent, utilities, licenses, permits, and initial inventory. It's important to budget carefully to ensure you don't run out of funds before your opening day.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Opening a coffee shop requires an entrepreneurial mindset. You need to carve out a niche, whether by offering unique roasts or creating a cozy atmosphere. It's a way to differentiate yourself from traditional coffee shops and manage prime costs effectively.

Preparing for Opening Day

The opening day is your first impression on potential customers. Plan special promotions or events to attract attention. Consider giving away free samples or hosting a grand opening party to draw in the crowd, balancing promotional expenses with expected revenue.

Orders and Roastery

Place orders with your suppliers early to ensure you have everything you need. If you plan to roast your own beans, setting up a roastery can add a unique touch and attract coffee enthusiasts. But consider the prime costs involved in such an investment.

Key Takeaways

  1. Foundation: As a new business, understanding prime costs is significant to financial health.
  2. Benchmark: Aim for a prime cost of 60-65% so you’ll be able to manage expenses effectively.
  3. Planning: If you don’t plan your COGS and labor, you’re going to incur unnecessary costs.
  4. Trends: From 2021, coffee shops are evolving and becoming increasingly popular, impacting prime costs.
  5. Efficiency: The process of opening a coffee shop includes managing prime costs for better profitability.

How can Taxfyle help?

Finding an accountant to manage your bookkeeping and file taxes is a big decision. Luckily, you don't have to handle the search on your own.

At Taxfyle, we connect small businesses with licensed, experienced CPAs or EAs in the US. We handle the hard part of finding the right tax professional by matching you with a Pro who has the right experience to meet your unique needs and will manage your bookkeeping and file taxes for you.

Legal Disclaimer

Tickmark, Inc. and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, tax or accounting advice or recommendations. All information prepared on this site is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied on for legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your own legal, tax or accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. The content on this website is provided “as is;” no representations are made that the content is error-free.

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June 3, 2024


Antonio Del Cueto, CPA

Antonio Del Cueto, CPA


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