Designing Coffee Houses

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Holding a steamy mug of coffee, you weave your way passed the sweets display, the tall stools, and the whirling cappuccino machines to the couch. Lumpy, but comfortable, a bit like your living room’s couch, you think as you settle in. Snagging a newspaper from the table, you sip from your mug — and relax. Welcome to coffee house heaven.

We all have one, a favorite coffee house. Whether it’s cookie-cutter or eclectic, we gravitate to that one place where we not only enjoy the coffee, but the atmosphere as well. If designed well, a coffee house can inspire writers with its warm lighting and overstuffed armchairs; it can nurture old friends with its game cupboard and round tables; it can launch musicians to stardom with its stage and sound system (okay, that may be a stretch). In any case, there’s more to any coffee house than just the coffee, and anyone who attempts to design one has numerous factors to consider.

Location/Floor Plans

Location can help determine the size and style of your coffee house.

First, consider where you’d like to open your java joint, preferably in a place that draws plenty of foot traffic. Bookstores, shopping malls, financial districts, and movie theaters, for example, attract a lot of pedestrians.

Once you’ve chosen your location, you can now focus on design. For example, in a financial district, your coffee house could be small and have little seating; after all, your main customer doesn’t come to linger. He walks in, orders his coffee, and is out the door before the whirl of the cappuccino machine has quieted. Try an industrial design, with open ceilings and stainless steel countertops. A handful of stools and tables would suffice — enough for someone to rest her feet while waiting for her drink. A newspaper stand inside could also work to your advantage.

However, if you choose to locate your coffee house near a movie theater or a bookstore, consider a roomier setting with varying seating arrangements. Try couches, high tables, chairs, deep armchairs, and low counters with stools. Tables for two, four, or even eight. Remember, movie theaters and bookstores encourage after-event lingering. Friends may come to discuss the film they just saw. The literati will want to discuss the hottest book.

One funky coffee house, located in Sierra Madre, California, took advantage of its small town foot traffic and used comfort and whimsy to draw its customers in to stay. Designed like your family’s living room, the coffee house is furnished with soft couches and deep armchairs in the middle of the room. Wooden tables line the brick wall. And every chair seems different from the next. Comfortable yet eclectic, this coffee house draws in families with its game cupboard, teens with its live music, and generation after generation with its coffees and pastries. It’s cozy. It’s comfortable. It’s home.

However you do it, make sure your coffee house not only drives traffic, but provides an atmosphere to match both its surroundings and its customers.


Don’t skimp on your coffee or your pastries. Stale food, no matter how easy or cheap, will drive people away. Try making your pastries on the premise. Know your coffee and teas. Have a blend of coffee unlike any other coffee house. Remember, there are coffee houses on every block, sometimes two. And according to coffee house CrimsonCup, ''nothing will lose customers faster than a bad brew, and nothing will bring them running like a drink made from outstanding beans.''

Live Music

Live music on the weekends can bring in unsuspecting customers (those who know nothing about your place but everything about the musician), who can not only boost sales that night, but, if you can turn musical guests into loyal customers, future sales as well. And like popcorn at a movie theater is inevitable, coffee and cake at a coffee house is, too, especially when there’s a performance.


Consider providing games and books. Sell merchandise. Sell your tea. Have drink cards, the kind where after buying 10 drinks, customers can get the eleventh for free. Make sure to have outlets in your coffee house for laptop users. Find local artists and sell their work on your walls. Decorate for each season. Whatever you do, make sure to give your coffee house your own unique twist, for that’s what will make customers yours.
On the net:Bean Town


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