Coffee Shop Design Elements

Coffee Shop Design Elements

The look of our coffee shop is slowly coming together after collecting ideas and inspiration this past year. Our process of designing a coffee shop has involved various different steps, so check out this last post in conjunction with this one. It’s been a lot of research and learning, observation and note taking, and then compiling all this information over time. I have pages of word documents and lists on evernote, but what’s helped me get my visual thoughts together was a vision board just made in Powerpoint. It’s gone through many updates, especially now as I’m changing out inspirational ideas for plans of what we want done to our actual space.

So what have I been considering as I’m putting together our coffee shop design? Whether these are sections in your vision board, or compiled another way, here are the things I thought through. Some ideas were pointed out by books I was reading, in which case I’ve also listed some sources at the end. Other things applied once we found our location. Start with these points and develop them as they apply over time. There are a lot of things to consider, so I added in pictures to make it a little more fun, featuring shops from our last trip to Europe. I recommend them all!

Coffee Shop Design Elements

Elements of Coffee Shop Design

Brand & Vision- Pinpoint your brand and vision, because every decision and detail should be consistent with and support it. Throughout the design process, think about the elements needed to make your brand come alive. Know the look you’re going for and if it supports your brand and core values. Whether you’re going for an industrial, homey, energetic, moody, electic– whatever– look, needs to make sense whether you want to be an in-and-out, contemplative, studious, or social shop. Include your vision, mission statement and values so your personality and purpose comes out through the design too. Write down two or three keywords that you think define your brand, and then allow all your design choices to be guided by those words. Think about how you want customers to see your store, and how to make it happen.

Atmosphere- What do customers see what they walk in? How do you want them to feel? What do you want your atmosphere to communicate about you? It should be a natural extension of your brand keywords. Have the details give a clear impression of who you are. Create an environment that carries your vision, to be a comfortable place where customers want to be and will enjoy your shop. Think of how you can use all five senses to affect your atmosphere and customer moods.

Coffee shop designNordic-living room style at Kent Kaffe Laboratorium in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Color- Think about color palettes, and know what feelings are associated with what colors. Where do you want color coming through? If you’re not sure, start with the basic principle of choosing three colors in a ratio of 7:2:1.

Decor Details- Represent your style and vision to the detail. Everything you choose will either support or deter from your brand. Think about:

  • Communicating your personality- from embellishments like trinkets, accents, jars/vases, plants/flowers, books, etc.
  • Practicality- maybe providing wi-fi for students or games for a social crowd; whatever attracts your target market
  • Cleanliness and durability- picking choices that are easy/fast to clean and will last in the long term

Walls- What your walls are made of and decorated with should match the mood you want to create. Think about:

  • Colors and finish. Will it be smooth or textured? Paint, wallpaper or another material?
  • Decor/Artwork- whether it’s framed, on canvas, or any unique designs or wall art. Artwork is important since it affects how people feel and what their eyes will see first. Do you want a unique statement piece to jump out first thing, or redirect eyes to something else with lines and texture?
  • Make sure it’s easy to clean, and all food areas need to be a smooth surface

Fabrique, StockholmTile walls, art and details to match a vintage kitchen feel, at Fabrique in Gamla Stan, Sweden. 

Floor- The color, finish, material. There are many options from tile, marble, hardwood, concrete, and many designs added unto that. Consider kick guards too.

Ceiling- I hadn’t even thought about the ceiling until I realized it too plays a big part of the look and feel of your shop. Unless it’s a statement ceiling, you don’t want people to notice it, so pay attention what you want to do with it now.

Lighting- For me, natural lighting and big windows are the most ideal, and this will depend on your space. Think about:

  • Curtains, blinds or screens for sunlight
  • Brightness- choose soft lighting that is comfortable for customers. Definitely not fluorescent… and then have brighter lighting for work areas
  • Fixtures- for each specified seating/work areas. Think about any statement lighting or artistic fixtures to add to your look

Furniture- What kind of furniture do you want? How much variety would you like? Think about:

  • Seating type- from tables of various sizes to stand up bars, and seating from chairs, barstools, couches, and benches, there’s a lot to choose from. Consider back support, testing for comfort. Make sure some are ADA accessible. Think about the color, fabric, size, shape, design, etc.
  • Material- wood brings about a homey comfort, metal is convenient. Think about the feel it brings, and the practically of use. Make sure they’re laminated for the long term, think about it being easy to clean and easily replaceable. Know your color range, texture, finish, and height.
  • Overall design- variety or uniform; what look are you going for? Categorize seating into sections: tables, bars, couches, etc.

Stofan Cafe, ReykjavikMismatched cozy-living room style at Stofan in Reykjavik, Iceland. 

Layout- Consider your bar and entire shop layout, but you’ll go into more detail once you have a space. Think about everything from a customers’ point of view: what would surprise, annoy, relieve, and convince you to buy something and come back. Design a layout that makes it an easy purchasing experience, from when they come through the door and walk out. Think about:

  • Customer flow- from where you come in, to waiting in line (gotta see the menu), to ordering and paying, to waiting for their drink and then picking it up. Decide whether you want it standard coffee shop style, or a combination of table service. Make sure guests are comfortable and not confused or crowded.
  • Counter design- from the customer point of view: line flow, upselling, barista/customer communication, and even seeing the espresso machine or their drinks made. Divide the counter into clear distinct regions.
  • Extras- like a pourover station, merch section, etc.
  • Your layout will be a work in progress, especially as it goes from a theoretical design to an actual blueprint. Your architect will help (especially to make sure counters are ADA height), but either way walk through it, and ask people’s opinion for a fresh eye. Think about being a customer in each step of the process. Nothing will be perfect since theory is different than reality, so know your tradeoffs and what is most important to you.

Bar Design- The bar is the stage of your shop, so think through the aesthetics, flow, and design features, also from the back end of things as a barista/owner in addition to the customer experience.

  • Aesthetics- the material, design and color of the countertops, bar front, back counter, cabinetry, shelving, and back wall.
  • Design- good traffic flow, shape, height, equipment placement. Have speed and efficiency in mind, so customers can get their drinks quickly (slower delivery time is lower volume). Make things compact to minimize the distance between tasks and keep things in arms reach, especially while making drinks. A good working area means that you can take your time to make a good coffee and you won’t need to rush.
  • Give everything a spot- your above and undercounter equipment, machines and small wares should be placed where they’ll be used, and everything you don’t need have on hand in cabinets and shelves.
  • Health code- keep in mind necessary hand/food prep sinks according to your health code.

The Coffee Collective, CopenhagenLong and gorgeous bar at Coffee Collective in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Food Display- plan to feature your food items in display cases or beverage coolers as customers stand in line before they order. Think about:

  • A glass case or cake dish- making sure refrigerated displays have no condensation. Think about the type (countertop or floor) and material (glass or plastic), making sure it’s easy to clean. Or maybe you just want your food out on plates, trays or dishes instead.
  • Serving food- cups, trays, glasses, plates and other accessories, and their color and material. Think about the presentation, customization, sizes, in how you want to serve each menu item and what you’ll need to buy for it.
  • Food/drinks- have an idea of your menu items, as well as embellishments/add ons, and your menu board.

Prep Room- have in mind any necessities like a triple sink and mop sink (often required by health), a dishwasher, storage etc. Make sure the layout is also convenient and easy to work in and clean. Think about if you want any baking areas, an office, or a place employees can take a break.

Condiment Stand- Milk, cream and sugar should be placed either on the main counter past where customers pick up drinks, or at a separate station nearby. Give people enough room so more than one person can use it at once, consistent with traffic flow and not in the way of others. Have it an easy place staff can access it too. Don’t forget the garbage can. Consider the color, finishing, design features, and cleaning.

Stefan Coffee Shop DesignCondiment stand with character, at Stofan in Reykjavik, Iceland. 

Merch Shelves- Your bottom line will definitely increase by selling things other than coffee, whether it’s other food/drink products, or any type of merchandise like coffee, brewing methods, shirts, trinkets, almost anything in line with your brand. It is very hard to succeed without an alternative revenue stream, so consider what else you can offer your customers. Think about how you want to present it, and the size, color, style and finishing of your shelving.

Bathrooms- I always love shops where they’ve paid attention to the bathroom and it’s not just a boring dirty bathroom. Think about the design and if you want to continue any themes or make it a fun look in itself. Remember to get mirrors, toilet and hand paper dispensers, garbage cans, sink/faucets, and a soap dispenser to say the least. The health dept and your architect will also figure out what’s required in terms of size, handrails and hot water tank usage.

Outdoor- Think about how your shop comes across externally. Consider:

  • Patio- design, furniture, colors, umbrellas, fencing, and making sure everything is low maintenance, easy to clean, and durable throughout the weather conditions.
  • Signage- check your city zoning for design restrictions. Think about the design, color and logo, making sure it’s visible for walk and drive by traffic. Make sure you have enough, each place easily seen. Use a consistent lettering style and color scheme.
  • Windows- keep them clean, making sure people are drawn in.
  • Door- think about the material, or any design features like adding your logo.

Yumchaa, LondonCharming patio at Yumchaa in London

Music- Make customers feel welcome. Pick a music choice that goes with your mood, and keep it a low enough volume so they can talk. Experiment with music by picking different styles each weekend and watching sales data.

Smell- Keep it smelling like coffee and baked goods. You might want employees to keep away from wearing strong scents.

Dress Codes- Keep it a casual atmosphere, or gear towards having some sort of united look to let customers know who works there. This also gives employees a sense of professionalism knowing they’re there to serve. It can be an all out uniform, or just a t-shirt or apron. Pick colors consistent with your brand, having material that’s easy to clean without fading easily. Consider the design, whether you want to add a logo, or if you want name tags.

Drop Coffee Roasters, StockholmWhich is classier at Drop Roasters in Stockholm, the crafty attire or pourover stand? 

Obviously, there’s a lot to consider in coffee shop design elements, and these are just the basics! As you have a location, work with your architect, and start finding exact spots for furniture, layouts and equipment, you’ll be going into even more detail. But it helps to have thought these things through as early as you can, and having a vision board was really helpful to have everything in one place to be easily edited and updated. If you have any input, I’d love to hear your insight below!


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