Cafe and Coffee Shop Buying Guide

Cafe and Coffee Shop

Make sure you have everything you need for your café or coffee shop with the Alliance one-stop Mini Shop. With every product imaginable you will be up and running in no time.  Running a coffee shop or café needs specialist equipment, everyday items, café supplies and of course, tea and coffee supplies.  Everything on the Alliance website is sourced from reputable suppliers at competitive prices. 

Here are some useful extra tips on setting up your coffee shop:

  • Speed is important, customers often want a quick cup of coffee and something to eat while they work, read the newspaper or enjoy a catch up with friends so choose efficient equipment which comes with a guarantee. This means if there are breakdowns, they can be dealt with swiftly.
  • Keep your coffee machine close to your customers and angle it so customers can see it in operation.
  • Keep your milk fridge close by too so drinks can be prepared right in front of the customer and make sure there is plenty of space at the serving counter so you can prepare drinks without fuss.
  • If your coffee shop counter layout is well thought-out it will help an efficient work flow which contributes to your success – plus it helps you prepare drinks and food without rushing and it’s important to have a smooth running, comfortable operation.
  • Keep all your equipment and your café spotlessly clean. Customers won’t want to sit at a dirty table and the floor should be regularly swept especially when there is food debris.  Clean up during the day as well as at the end of a shift.
  • Always provide good quality coffee! Your customers will return if it is delicious!
  • Café Latte is still the most popular coffee drink but there are many more coffees which are growing in popularity such as the Piccolo Latte, Cortado and flat white, consider what options you want to offer.
  • Stock the right size cups, espresso should fit into 3oz cups while cappuccino is best served in a 6 or 7oz cup. A latte, mocha or hot chocolate should be served in a taller thick glass or a larger size cappuccino cup.  Be sure to offer different size coffees too, such as regular, large or extra-large.
  • Make sure all your stocks are regularly replenished so there are no last minute panics!

What You Will Need:


Keep good stocks of napkins in varying materials.  1 or 2 ply napkins are suitable for quick bites or takeaway.  There are plenty of different colours to choose from so you can dress up your tables or co-ordinate to your décor scheme.  If you have a café or coffee shop, use napkin dispensers on tables or for takeaway use so customers can grab and go!  For environmentally friendly products, there are plenty of completely recyclable napkin dispensers available.

Slip Covers

Hide table tops with disposable slip covers which come in a variety of different colours.  Not only do they look superb, they offer a protective benefit as well.  Choose from wipeable or linen replacement.  The wipeable products are excellent for cleaning up spills and linen replacement and wipeable slip covers offer durable, practical hardwearing products which are hygienic too. 


Café cutlery is slightly different than restaurant cutlery because it is often selected by the customer after they have collected their food so make sure you have suitable cutlery baskets and trolleys available and keep your stocks high. Cutlery trays come in varying shapes and sizes, normally with four compartments, choose from black, white or wire.  For cleaning cutlery in your dishwasher, purchase cutlery baskets with many compartments – making it speedy to wash high numbers of cutlery pieces in one operation.  Other products which are useful include a plate peg rack for drying off plates, small trays and platters and cutlery pots which holds everything in one handy place.

For café cutlery you should have the following items, all available on the Alliance website.  Everything is made out of high quality hardwearing and durable stainless steel so suitable for dishwasher use.

  • Knives
  • Forks
  • Dessert Spoons
  • Soda Spoons (ideal for lattes, tall ice creams etc.)
  • Dessert Knives
  • Teaspoons
  • Steak Knives (if you offer meat dishes)
  • Soup Spoons
  • Coffee Spoons
  • Children’s Cutlery


Keep stocks of glassware high because you will have large turnover of drinks so it’s always a good idea to have plenty of glasses available.  Choose thick, quality hardwearing toughened glassware too so it is less at risk of chipping and breakage although there will always be some level of breakage, another good reason to check stock levels. There are plenty of designs available on the Alliance website, whether you want curved shapes or simple, straight designs.  Have the following in stock:

  • Tumblers (tall and short)
  • Hi-ball Tumblers
  • Beer Glasses (if applicable)
  • Whisky Glasses (if applicable)
  • Coca Cola Glasses (if applicable)
  • Cocktail Glasses (if applicable)
  • Coffee Glasses
  • Sundae Glasses (if applicable)

Beverage Supplies

Depending on what you offer in your coffee shop or café, you will need relevant beverage supplies such as cafetieres, teapots, coffee pots, sugar bowls and jugs.  Keep multiple items available and choose from the high quality premium products found on the Alliance website.  Make sure you have different sizes available too; for example, single serving teapots and coffee pots as well as coffee pots suitable for a large table of customers.

Tea and Coffee Suppliers

Your staple products are tea and coffee so have the right accessories available for your customers.  These include those little extras and essentials which are sometimes overlooked so stock up on the following from reputable well-known brands:

  • Filter papers for your coffee machine
  • Sporks (disposable cutlery)
  • Stirrers (disposable)
  • Plastic/biodegradable cutlery
  • Disposable stirrers
  • Sugar sachets (brown and white)
  • Coffee biscuits
  • Assorted wrapped mini biscuit packs
  • Coffee syrup in various flavours
  • Sugar Sticks
  • Sugar Wedges
  • Decaffeinated Coffee Sachets
  • Coffee Sachets
  • Teabags
  • Instant Coffee
  • Espresso Beans
  • Filter Coffee
  • Cafetiere Coffee
  • Sugar Replacement


Every café and coffee shop needs suitable crockery to serve up dishes so make sure you have good quality durable products to hand.  Keep high stocks of everything in case of breakage and try and keep it simple!  Ornate or brightly coloured crockery may not be easy to replace so make sure what you buy is replaceable in case of accidents. Always check your crockery for quality because you don’t want marks, holes, bubbles, spots or colour differentiation.  When selecting mugs or cups, make sure they are comfortable to hold so if you can, try them out yourself first. You will need a variety of plates, bowls, dishes, serving platters and other pieces, our guide below will help you to select what you need for your business.  Here are a few other points to take into consideration:

  • Keep it simple, plain white is the best option but if you prefer colour there are alternatives.
  • Look at price because crockery gets damaged and broken with heavy use so you will need to be able to replace pieces from time to time. It’s also important to buy a set that won’t be deleted so you can buy replacement items or you could end up having to purchase a whole new set which can be costly.
  • Don’t buy anything with metallic design especially if you want to be able to put your crockery in the microwave, metal is not suitable for microwave use.
  • Look for something timeless which will transcend fashion.

There are plenty of different materials to choose from too, from eco-friendly wood to fine china, here’s some more information on the different types:

  • Porcelain which is strong and durable made out of ceramic with a noticeable shine.
  • Fine China which is less strong than porcelain and more suited to fine dining.
  • Woodthis is very trendy at the moment and is also ecologically friendly especially if it comes from a sustainable source.
  • Vitrified China this is stronger than fine china and is very white in colour. It goes through a specialist process which makes it non-absorbent and therefore it is one of the strongest ceramic materials in the world – a great choice for restaurants, cafes and coffee shops.

Here’s a list of items you will need:

Plates, Bowls, Mugs, Cups, Saucers, Dishes, Salt & Pepper, Egg Cups, Condiments, Teapots, Coffee Pots, Creamers, Sauce Boats, Jugs, Platters, Ramekins

You might also want the following to co-ordinate:

Ashtrays, Trays, Stands, Lids, Vases

Beverage Equipment Supplies

Depending on what you offer in your coffee shop or café, you will need relevant beverage equipment supplies such as cafetieres, teapots, coffee pots, sugar bowls and jugs.  Keep multiple items available and choose from the high quality premium products found on the Alliance website.  Make sure you have different sizes available too; for example, single serving teapots and coffee pots as well as coffee pots suitable for a large table of customers.

Tea and Coffee Suppliers

Your staple products are tea and coffee so have the right accessories available for your customers.  These products are excellent for takeaway cafes as well as eat-in. Items include those little extras and essentials which are sometimes overlooked so stock up on the following from reputable well-known brands:

  • Filter papers for your coffee machine.
  • Sporks (disposable cutlery).
  • Stirrers (disposable).
  • Plastic/biodegradable cutlery.
  • Disposable stirrers.
  • Sugar sachets (brown and white).
  • Coffee biscuits.
  • Assorted wrapped mini biscuit packs.
  • Coffee syrup in various flavours.
  • Sugar Sticks.
  • Sugar Wedges.
  • Decaffeinated Coffee Sachets.
  • Coffee Sachets.
  • Teabags.
  • Instant Coffee.
  • Espresso Beans.
  • Filter Coffee.
  • Cafetiere Coffee.
  • Sugar Replacement.

Café Supplies

As well as tea and coffee supplies if you have a food menu or run a buffet you will need good stocks of café supplies from well-known brands.  To help you keep an eye on what you need, here’s our recommended list:

  • SachetsKeep stocks available of the following condiment sachets: salt, pepper, tomato sauce, brown sauce, mayonnaise, salad cream, tartare, vinegar and vinaigrette.
  • Check Spike When you’re very busy it’s easy to lose track of your bills so keep a couple of chrome check spikes in stainless steel and store all your bills in one place to sort through when you close.
  • Condiment Sets These include salt & pepper shakers, grinders, oil & vinegar sets and olive oil pourers which come in different shapes and sizes depending on the style of your café. Choose from stainless steel to glass or acrylic but keep plenty available so customers have their own set on their table.
  • Table Numbers It’s very important to have table numbers if you run waitress or waiter service, it’s also essential if your customers order their food at the bar and you need to identify where they are going to sit. There are plenty of options available from stands which hold number cards to melamine (the latter run in sets of ten, tables 1 to 10, 11 to 20 etc. and come in black or cream).  Don’t forget to stock up on banquet numbers if you use the table number stands with the slots for the number cards and keep stocks of “reserved” signs to indicate when a table has already been pre-booked.
  • Placemats Placemats are a fabulous table cover for casual dining but are also sometimes used in formal establishments. They protect the table from heat damage and staining and often are used on top of table cloths too.  Choose from different metallic colours in vinyl, foam backed slate or coloured melamine styles.

Cleaning Supplies

Keeping your café or coffee shop clean is of paramount importance.  No customer wants to eat or drink in a grubby establishment so you will need to keep a good stock of cleaning products.  You will need products for your restaurant area, behind the counter, in the kitchen, the common parts and of course, the restrooms.  To make it easier for you to keep a list of what you need, here’s some guidance on the best products to have handy:

  • Degreasers These are essential for deep cleaning particularly in the kitchen environment when bacteria builds up. Choose products which clean, degrease and sanitise all at once and use after every spill and every shift.
  • SanitisersThese are essential for kitchens and restrooms and remove germs and bacteria. Ideal for surfaces, walls and some floors check the products you buy if you are intending to use them in the kitchen so you are sure they are suitable for food contact.
  • Oven Cleaners Ovens should be cleaned every day because food, fat and grease bakes onto surfaces which leaves bacteria growing but also can be damaging to your oven’s inside and outside area. Choose something which is strong and can penetrate through grease, fat and grime.
  • Grill Sanitisers Similar to the oven, grills need to be kept meticulously clean so purchase a specific cleaner which removes grease, grime, fat and food debris from your grill area.
  • Wipes It’s always useful to have cleaning wipes to hand especially for a quick solution to spills and soiling.
  • Disinfectant Sprays These ar useful sprays which kill germs instantly and perfect for kitchen and bathroom use.
  • Cloths Keep good stocks of cleaning cloths and colour code them according to use so there is no danger of cross-contamination. Have microfibre cloths, budget J cloths, medium and heavy duty cloths and dusters available for all your cleaning tasks.
  • Buckets To clean floors and for other household tasks, have a few buckets available from standard round buckets to buckets with wringer sections. Buckets with dual compartments are useful; you simply fill one side with water and use the other side to remove the excess.
  • Mop Heads These are interchangeable so you can replace just the head when they wear out instead of buying an entirely new product. There are plenty of different styles including cut end (basic style but remember these cannot be laundered) and loop end style (better quality as they do not unravel).  Microfibre mops made out of polyester and polyamide are good at removing dirt and are highly absorbent, they are also washable. 
  • Mop Handles Choose from a number of different size handles for your mops in varying colours and materials. There are also extendable handles available for your convenience.

Waste Disposal

Coffee shops and cafes will have extremely high levels of waste so how you dispose of it is very important.  Having the right waste disposal will help keep hygiene levels up and prevent unwanted odours, bacteria, germs and pests.  Make sure you have the right dustbins in place, inside your establishment and outside.  There are government rules and guidelines which must be adhered to, these are in place to help protect our environment.  Failure to follow the rules will result in fines from £1000.  The wheelie bins provided by your local council are as follows:

  • Green bin for general waste including plastic, polystyrene and sanitary items.
  • Blue bin for recyclable materials such as board, metal, paper and glass.
  • Brown bin for food waste and other compostable waste.

Remember to rinse out your bins very regularly to prevent bacteria building up inside and get rid of unwanted pests.

Keep stocks of refuse sacks available, there are different strengths available on the Alliance website which can carry from 10 to 20kg.

First Aid Supplies

Every business regardless of its specialty should have first aid supplies readily available to deal with minor accidents.  First aid is especially important in restaurants or food businesses when there is more risk of accidents so keep a box of all the essentials somewhere handy and make sure stocks are replenished regularly.  Choose a kit according to the size of your business, for example, on the Alliance website you will find kits suitable for up to 20 people or 50 people.  Kits can even be fixed to the wall with a universal bracket (also available to purchase through Alliance) so they are highly visible.  Kits on the website contain the following essentials:

  • First aid guidance leaflet
  • Bandages
  • Eye dressings
  • Sterile dressings (various sizes)
  • Wipes
  • Safety pins
  • Plasters
  • Vinyl gloves
  • Grip bags

Other First Aid essentials which you might want to keep handy include:

  • Foil blankets (for when a person goes into shock).
  • Burn care kits.
  • Body fluid spill kits.
  • Sterile eye dressings.
  • Triangular bandages.
  • Moist wipes.
  • Ice packs.
  • Sterile wipes.
  • Fire blankets.
  • Assorted plasters.

For further information on Cafe and Coffee Shop visit the Cafe and Coffee Shop pages or contact the Alliance customer care team

Back to the Cafe and Coffee Shop buying guides