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How Much Does It Cost to Open a Boba Shop? (2024 Startup Costs)

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Justin GuinnAuthor

How Much Does it Cost to Open a Boba Shop?

Boba tea shops have bubbled onto the scene in recent years. 

They’ve added a new dimension to the coffee and tea section of the restaurant industry. These bubble tea stores can provide a great opportunity for the right entrepreneur looking for a new business venture — but just like with any restaurant, there’s tons to consider with opening a boba tea shop. 

Answering how much does it cost to open a boba shop should be the top pursuit of any prospective new business owners looking to dive into the industry.

In this article, you will learn about boba tea shops, including their origins and popularity, estimates of how much it costs to open a boba shop, common business models in the bubble tea industry, essential equipment costs, and the role of restaurant technology in running a successful boba shop.

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Are boba shops profitable?

What is a boba tea shop?

Boba tea, also known as bubble tea, is a popular drink that originated in Taiwan. 

It typically consists of tea-based drinks, milk tea, or fruit tea, combined with chewy tapioca pearls, and can be customized with various flavors and toppings. 

Boba tea shops have gained widespread popularity, especially among younger demographics, and have become a staple in the food service industry.

Common boba tea business models

Boba tea shops can adopt different business models based on their target market and location.

Different bubble tea business models include:

  • Bubble tea stores that only do boba tea. These stores may be a small business with a smaller square foot shop. This can be a great entry to start your own bubble tea business and then grow it from there.

  • Bubble tea stores that feature an array of teas, coffees, smoothies, and other beverages. Depending on the saturation of the bubble tea market in your area, business owners may want a larger, more diverse menu. 

  • Bubble tea stores with a plethora of beverages as well as a full food menu. Some boba operations can even step into serving solid foods, such as wraps, sandwiches, snacks, and other options.

Understanding your customer base and demographics is crucial for developing the scale of your menu.

Business owners also need to understand their customer base to determine optimal marketing strategies. 

With the rise of social media and online ordering, boba shops can leverage these platforms to attract millennials and drive foot traffic.

There’s also ordering channels for bubble tea businesses to consider. Whether in-store, takeout, or delivery, operators have to tailor your business model and ordering options accordingly.

Bubble tea business owners have to factor upfront costs into break-even analysis, so that average profit margins can be adequately distributed to eliminate startup costs.

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Startup costs of opening a bubble tea shop and ongoing expenses

When considering opening a bubble tea business, it is vital to understand the associated startup costs. 

The cost may vary depending on location, size, and other factors.

Boba shop startup costs

According to Boba Empire, a global manufacturer of OEM/ ODM products and services in the bubble tea industry, the initial costs to get a bubble tea business set up can be around $40,000 to $50,000 — and potentially more if business owners go the franchise route.

Equipment costs for a boba shop can range from around $12,000 to $100K+ depending on the scale of the menu and subsequent equipment requirements. There’s a whole host of equipment that we’ve dedicated an entire section to below.

Other common startup costs include everything you’d expect for a new business, such as business license fees, business insurance costs, real estate costs of rents or mortgages, and more.

Business license fees can start around $800, including $50 for the license, $250 for a Certificate of Occupancy, and around $500 for a food service license. 

Business insurance costs can range from $360 - $4,000 annually

Real estate costs vary widely depending on your location and total square footage.

Ongoing costs for a boba shop

The main components of ongoing costs are called your restaurant prime costs —the combination of labor and cost of goods sold (COGS).

Labor cost percentages typically run around 30% of total sales. So if you do $1M in total sales annually, that’s around $300K in labor costs. This could trend lower for your business given boba shop labor requirements.

COGS is typically around 30-35% of your total sales. COGS makes up all the cost of the ingredients and products that are required to make what you’re selling. This can include weekly supplier orders for tea, tapioca, and more — as well as less regular resupplies of specialty straws, flavoring syrups, creamers, and more.

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Essential equipment costs for boba tea shops

To serve high-quality boba tea, specific bubble tea equipment is necessary.

This includes automatic tea brewers, blenders, bubble tea machines, sealing machines, shaker cups, shaker machines, and specialty fructose dispensers.

Here’s a quick description of some must-have equipment and prices based on Bubble Teaology listings:

  • Bubble tea sealer machines: Costs range from $1,000 up to $4,000+

    • Sealer Machines are an essential piece of equipment in any bubble tea shop. These machines apply a plastic seal to your plastic or paper cups, creating that signature bubble tea experience. Customers can then break the seal open with their wide straws, adding an element of fun to their drink.

  • Bubble tea shaker machines: Costs sits around $1,000

    • Shaker machines make the process of shaking bubble tea easy and enjoyable. Simply plug in the machine, place your shaker cups inside, and press start to achieve a perfectly mixed bubble tea.

  • Bubble tea fructose dispensers: Cost start around $1,200

    • Fructose dispensers can be a valuable tool for maintaining consistent drink quality and reducing employee costs. Achieving the right amount of sugar (fructose) in each drink can be challenging without extensive training. However, with an automatic fructose dispenser, you can simply press a button, and these machines will dispense the precise amount of sugar needed, ensuring consistency across all beverages.

  • Automatic tapioca pearl maker: Costs can come in at $3,000

    • In addition to purchasing boba from suppliers, you have the option to make your own tapioca pearls. With an automatic tapioca pearl maker, you can have the freshest boba in town and even experiment with different flavors and colors to create a unique boba tea experience.

  • Automatic tapioca pearl cookers: Costs range around $4,500

    • Cooking tapioca pearls can be challenging when done using traditional stovetop methods.Tapioca pearl cookers help simplify the process by boiling the water and automatically stirring the boba pearls.

Bubble tea franchise costs vs. starting your own business

Entrepreneurs looking to enter the bubble tea industry can consider opening a franchise or starting their own business.

Each option has its advantages and considerations.

Franchises offer a proven business model, brand recognition, and support but require a franchise fee and ongoing royalties. Sourcing raw and prepared ingredients can be handled corporately — which can be great if the franchisors provide high-quality tea leaves and other ingredients.

Starting your own business allows for more autonomy but requires careful planning, additional liability insurance, and possible initial renovations. You’re also left to manage your own inventory and sourcing. 

Which again, could be a good thing if you want to seek out the best bubble tea ingredients available without restrictions.

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Restaurant technology for bubble tea stores

Restaurant technology can play a significant role in the efficiency and success of a boba tea shop.

Implementing a user-friendly point-of-sale system can streamline operations, help manage inventory, and process orders accurately. Utilizing technology for customer loyalty programs, email marketing, and online ordering can improve customer satisfaction and drive repeat business.

Boba tea operators can consider self-service kiosksinventory management, and cost control tools to enhance your boba tea shop's operational efficiency and scalability.

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Take control of boba tea shop costs to protect profit margins

Monitoring costs is essential to maintain profitability in the boba business.

By continuously managing prime costs such as labor costs, ingredient costs, and other overhead expenses, coffee truck owners can protect their average profit margins.

It is crucial to regularly review and analyze the total costs associated with the business to ensure profitability and make adjustments where necessary. Break-even analysis plays a vital role in understanding the minimum sales required to cover costs and achieve profitability.

By emphasizing the importance of ongoing cost control and analysis, bubble tea business owners can maximize their profits and build a sustainable business.

Boba tea businesses are bubbling with opportunity

Opening a boba tea shop offers an exciting opportunity for business owners in the food service industry.

By understanding the startup costs, choosing the right business model, investing in essential equipment, and leveraging restaurant technology, you can set your boba tea business up for success.

Keep in mind the importance of market research, customer preferences, and continuous adaptation to stay competitive in this growing industry.

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