How To Start Guide: Set up – Starting a Successful Church Coffee Shop or Café

Starting or setting up a church run coffee shop or café is becoming standard fare in today’s churches across America. Why is that?


Church Cafés are popular and draw crowds. No doubt about that. If you’re taking the plunge though, do it right!

First consider the fact that coffee is the most highly consumed beverage on the planet next to water. Second, it is universally accepted (unlike beer or wine) within the Christian community. Finally, let’s not forget the sense of community and fellowship it generates as people hold a warm cup and have their spirits lifted in fellowship with one another.

Bottom line: Coffee shops foster positive energy and atmosphere.  And that’s a good thing today! We could all use a bit more of that. Right?

We have been in this business nearly ten years and have helped any number of churches and shops set up their cafés. Obviously we would like you to do business with Coffee 4 Missions, but we would also like to make sure you do it right.

That being said, consider this basic HOW TO GUIDE our gift to you, no strings attached. That’s how we operate. We figure you will start to see how we operate and consider us as you look to open your church coffee shop or café.

The most important question you absolutely have to answer is: Will we charge for our coffee or give it away?

There isn’t a correct answer here. It’s unique to your congregation’s needs, the goals of the café, and possibly your congregational view about conducting a selling environment within the four walls of the church. There is no one right answer. So think about this and get everyone on board whatever model you choose.


  • Profits can be used to fund specific ministries, mission outreach, or fund special projects.
  • Can provide employment for church staff, college & high school students.
  • It pays for itself, so it is never a drag on the budget.
  • Off campus church run coffee shops are a great neutral territory for sharing the Gospel message using a stair-step method:
    • Provide a great product
    • Do it with a smile/great customer service
    • Be consistent
    • People will notice: “There’s just something different here”.
    • Clients will start to ask questions opening the door for sharing Jesus.
  • Shops that sell can more easily afford to carry better products: better coffee, better smoothie mixes, etc.

    FACT: The day when you can open a for-profit coffee shop and sell mediocre coffee or just grocery store grade coffees are gone. People no longer visit coffee shops out of curiosity, innocent of what to expect. You have a very educated coffee shop clientele out there today.


  • Great first impression possibly to visitors if the coffee is front and center on Sunday AM’s.  Just offering a warm cup of anything is inviting.
  • Anytime there is a coffee or tea readily available, people will gather around the serving area and talk. That’s called fellowship. And that is good.
  • Being free it will now have to be part of the budget and will not pay for itself. It’s an expense.
  • Being an expense you have to decide whether you want to provide a good grade of coffee or food service grade coffee.

    FACT: Our experience has been that churches who have switched to our coffee even in the FREE COFFEE MODEL [from hotel or food service grade coffee] immediately notice how few half empty cups they have to pick up and collect after Sunday services and how little un-used coffee is dumped out. In fact their coffee consumption actually goes up some.  But when you weigh that against what was thrown away and dumped out before, it’s probably a wash.

The next thing to consider is the build out: The #1 mistake most new coffee shops make is over-spending on the build out.

Coffee shops use a lot of the same items found in a restaurant like ice makers, 3 compartment sinks, under counter refrigerators, blenders and so on.


We recommend buying NEW on espresso machines. We can get you the best prices on the better, time tested machines out there.

When you can it is advisable to buy USED. Good, used commercial grade equipment holds up well over time. Used can be a few months old or a few years old, but the pricing will be all the about same. Expect to pay about 20-30% of new price for good used equipment. We can guide you on this and have one broker we like to deal with who is a Christian businessman. Whether from him or another source we can often find you what you need for the fairest/best price based on quality. In the end: We know what we are looking at and what it’s really worth. We’re a great resource.

We have a long list of items we recommend to our clients to buy used and a rough guestimate of prices for planning purposes. Talk to us about that.

However, we generally  do not recommend buying espresso machines used. There are several reasons.

  • First the boom in coffee shop growth has led to a lot of sub-standard quality espresso machines being available. They may look pretty and shiny, but inside you often find cheap plumbing, construction & electrical parts and just poor design.  Your espresso machine is the center of your coffee shop universe so you’d best make it a good one.
  • Second, you have no idea if it was set-up, operated and maintained properly. In our retail shops and those of our clients we recommend daily cleaning of the system with an approved cleaner. Daily or after each use cycle!Also you need to make sure your espresso machine is supplied water that was filtered and MOST IMPORTANLY passed through a water softener system before entering the espresso machine.
  • You really don’t save that much buyingh a used espresso machine. Repairs are expensive, Part s are expensive. A new machine comes with a warranty and service is included for up to year most times.  Plus you can set it up correctly, maintain it correctly and be assured of years of trouble free service from it if new. We have connections with several wholesalers and can get you the best prices on these as well within the sphere of machines we know hold up the best (FAEMA, ASTORIA, et al).

When you buy a used unit, sitting in a warehouse, or someones garage, you have no idea if any of this has occurred (even if it is a name brand we would recommend).

Finally sell good quality products.

This probably should be number one.

I say that because I am thinking of instances where shops were properly capitalized, used good equipment, but chose to go with downright cheap coffee and/or other products. They are all out of business now. For example, we actually saw one local owner loading a cart at the local Big Box Membership Store with their store brand of coffee. Yet he was still charging like it was an artisan grade coffee. This didn’t fool their clientele for long. They can get that at the gas station free with a greasy sausage biscuit.

Our coffees are sourced from the best regions through the most reputable agencies and roasted to bring out their full flavor and goodness. We use the infrared roasting method which is superior to all other methods. Couple the two characteristics together and you have a winning combination that will keep clients returning again and again and keep you profitable.

Contact us today to help you get started

We have many years of experience, industry knowledge and a network of suppliers that can offer you the best pricing for whatever your needs are.

Mary Lou Herald, Food Service Director at Whitesburg Baptist Church says this about us:

We opened our Café 246 coffee shop last year and wanted a high quality coffee at a reasonable price but also a coffee company with a higher purpose and ideals than simply us selling coffee. What a tall order!

We found everything we were looking for and more in Coffee 4 Missions and Toomer’s Coffee Roasters.

It is outstanding coffee; our people love it and purchase bags to enjoy at home. The company/people are of the highest caliber, honest, and dependable; they will do whatever it takes to be sure we have what we need when we need it.

What I appreciate most is the help they gave us prior to opening our coffee service – they helped with design and layout, equipment procurement, lots of encouragement, training of our staff, and were on-site the day we opened!

You cannot go wrong purchasing coffee from this outstanding company- you will receive great coffee at a reasonable price and have a good feeling knowing you are helping to support missions… one cup at a time.”

We look forward to hearing from you soon!

God’s blessings!

Sandy & Trish Toomer
334-329-9852 / 334-332-6652

Coffee 4 Missions &
Toomer’s Coffee Roasters

SPECIAL NOTE: Sandy Toomer will be leading a Break-Out session on “Starting a Church Coffee Shop Ministry” at the upcoming GACHP convention in Orlando, Florida  FRIDAY JUNE  28TH between 3:15 and 4:30 PM.

More information may be found at