Many people dream about opening a coffee shop although in reality very few actually do anything about it.
For those who finally take the plunge their main priority will be focused on finding the best tasting coffee bean, the ideal coffee machine, locating great premises in the right part of town and then proceeding to the fit out in order for their dream to become a reality. Friends and family will all be roped in and the Local Enterprise Office may also be contacted to avail of some free advice, but apart from this, sourcing professional legal advice is rarely at the top of the agenda for new coffee shop owners.
It is hard to understand why a new business owner would take the risk of not setting things up properly from the outset and potentially leave themselves open to being sued, or worse, closed down?
As a firm of solicitors experienced in dealing with coffee shops, cafes and restaurants of all shapes and size, we felt it important to spell out why we think a new coffee shop owner would want to engage with a solicitor early in their journey
Key Reasons To Speak To A Solicitor Sooner Rather Than Later
- You could leave yourself at the risk of being sued
- You run the risk of not having adequate licensing and be fined and/or closed down
- You could fall foul of food hygiene standards and someone could fall ill (or worse) and you could be fined and/or closed down
- You could sign an extremely restrictive lease for an unsuitable building and have no way to get out for a long, long time
- You could sign a suppliers agreement with a food supplier with unfair terms and a lengthy lock in period
- You could employ people with a sub-standard contract with inferior clauses and protection or worse no contract at all
It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive nor is it designed in any way to patronise or frighten new business owners from trying to realise their dream. The truth is that anyone setting up a coffee shop will be consumed with the sheer volume of work across multiple different areas all competing for their time.
We completely understand that at this stage, when things are all action stations, the last thing you want to do is to take your foot of the pedal and talk about contracts. Any seasoned business owner will, however, tell you that the sooner you speak to your solicitor about a situation the better. It is often a false economy to wait or to let things play out before engaging with your solicitor.
It would not be uncommon for a situation to get worse or for a client to make a series of decisions which in fact make their situation worse rather than better. All the while, when a quick conversation or meeting with their solicitor could have informed them on what to be careful of and how it would be best to behave given the situation being presented.
Most solicitors will meet with a business owner in the first instance on a free consultation basis to understand your concerns and to discuss the options available to you. At the very least by doing this it will help you to identify the key issues at hand and you will then be better informed in order to make the necessary decisions.
Common Areas Where A Solicitor Could Help In The Opening Of Your New Coffee Shop
The main areas where we see a solicitor having a positive affect on a new business include:
- Business Incorporation
Sole trader, partnership, limited company or limited partnership
Purchase or lease of suitable premises
- Planning Permission
Change of Use – To allow the premises to be used to prepare and sell food stuffs
To review the terms of any funding proposal
- Supplier Agreements
To review and agree terms for supplier agreements
- Food Hygiene
To review and advise on legislation relating to same
- Health & Safety
To review and advise on health and safety standards and regulations
- Coffee and coffee equipment supply and servicing contracts
- Employment contracts and employee-related matters
In summary, most people are reluctant to speak to their solicitor too early when a situation arises as they think it might be better to hold out or that it will be too expensive to take legal advice unless something really bad has happened. The reality, however, is that if you wait too long the situation could get more serious and/ or you could end up doing something to make the situation worse. At the very least take time out at the beginning to identify where things may go wrong and the options you have at your disposal in order to deal with the situation in a legally compliant fashion.
People work too hard realising their dream of opening a coffee shop, don’t leave the very future of that dream in jeopardy by leaving a consultation with your solicitor too late. Involve them early and put the right processes and contracts in place to protect your business and give you the very best opportunity of staying in business for years to come.
If you are considering setting up a coffee shop in the realisation of your life-long dream or are perhaps in the process of doing so, please get in touch to set up a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our solicitors. At Clarke Jeffers we have many years experience working in the Food & Beverage sector and regularly advise clients such as Costa Coffee and Salad Box alongside numerous, independently owned coffee shops, in all matters relating to their business. Alternatively, you may wish to download and read a copy of our Guide To Opening Your Own Coffee Shop.