How To Design Your Coffee Shop Layout And Workflow

By now you’ve found the perfect location for your coffee shop – your new home away from home! Now it’s time for the next big step – planning how the inside of the shop will look and feel…

First impressions count!

You can tell a lot about a place from how it’s laid out: the impression it gives to customers is not to be underestimated, but it’s also vital that you consider how the space works for you and your staff. Not only do you want the place to feel welcoming, and like an expression of your brand, but you need to be sure that it is enabling you to work efficiently and effectively every day.

The Shop Floor

In many spaces, some of the bigger layout decisions will have already been made for you. The size and shape of the café will dictate much of its layout, and so will any existing features (think pillars, coffee bars, and other things you can’t change). Whether it’s an existing coffee shop or a totally blank slate, there are always a lot of decisions to be made.

We’ll start from the beginning – when the customer walks through the door. Apart from the view from outside, this is the customer’s first experience of your store. They should be able to see the counter quickly and easily, and be greeted by a friendly face. You don’t want people sheepishly trying to find you when they step through the door!

The bar itself needs to be as welcoming as possible. Your customers should be able to see you clearly (not hidden away behind piles of equipment), and it should be immediately obvious where they need to go to order and pay. Use this space for any items you want to upsell – while people are queuing for the thing they came in for, show them all the things they could enjoy with their coffee!

Speaking of queues, make sure that your customers can line up comfortably without feeling in the way of the rest of your space.

Behind The Bar

Equally as important as the customer experience is the space your staff will work in. We can’t emphasise enough the importance of a streamlined working environment behind a coffee bar. In fast-paced, dynamic environments like a coffee shop, every second really does count, and where you place things behind your bar can make or break you when it comes to service.

Have you optimised your station’s efficiency?

As a general rule, everything a team member needs should be in reach of where they are standing. If you’re a barista, for example, you should be able to do the following without stepping away from your spot:

  • Prepare drinks (including grinding and tamping)
  • Rinse milk jugs
  • Replenish milk, beans, cups, lids and other ancillary items
  • Have access to ice and boiling water
  • Reach cleaning items for your station
  • Serve drinks to customers

Top tip: if most of your staff are right-handed, keep your grinder, scales and tamp mat to the right-hand side of the espresso machine. It’ll give you a much more natural workflow!

Similarly, if you are operating the till, or preparing food, you should have everything within reach, without having to walk from one side of the bar to the other. Everyone should have their own space. Each location will have its own requirements, but the same rules apply everywhere. Whether you have a full kitchen or are just serving snacks and cakes, your equipment of choice should be laid out with efficiency in mind above all else.

Crucially, these spaces should never overlap. You don’t want staff bumping into each other all day!

There are also a couple of safety considerations that are non-negotiable. All coffee machines need an isolated hard wired power source, above the level of where the water enters the machine, which can be reached safely to shut off the power at any time. You will also need a water line and a waste point with sufficient fall, all within 1 meter of where the machine is going to sit.

Specialist Equipment:

The space you have to work with will massively influence workflow, but so can the equipment you choose to use. Specialist equipment can be pricey, but often it’s a worthwhile investment that can quickly pay for itself if it allows you to serve more customers.

For example, do you have a lot of customers who want “just a normal coffee”? Instead of waiting for a free spot on the espresso machine, then preparing an Americano – why not offer a filter coffee instead? A batch brewer will quickly give you litres of delicious coffee, that can be served in seconds.

What about milk jugs? Each time a barista cleans a milk jug (and they should be doing this after every drink), they need to head to a water source, and thoroughly swill out their pitcher. Instead, a pitcher rinser can be installed right next to the espresso machine, and will give you a squeaky clean pitcher in seconds, ready to get straight on with the next drink. Those extra seconds quickly add up!

The time-savers don’t stop there. Maybe you want to automate the coffee making itself? Some sites are better suited to semi-automatic espresso machines, and they’re no longer something to scoff at.

What kind of ‘coffee shop vibe’ are you aiming for?

Design & Accessibility

Think about how to design your shop – does it reflect how you want your customers to feel? A more relaxed environment with soft furnishings and warm colours will have customers spending more time relaxing in your café. This is great if you’re serving food and have a high average ticket, but not so great if you’re looking to sling out takeaway drinks all day long! Think about the layout of your cafe, how space will be used by customers, and if it fits your staff’s workflow.

Accessibility surrounding and inside your shop is very important. You want everyone and anyone to be able to use your services and have a good time doing so! Here are some key points to think about when making your store accessible:

  • Having cups with large handles and easy to grip.
  • Bathroom accessibility- a disabled toilet and baby changing facility should be a minimum.
  • Space between tables and furniture for ease of movement. Furniture that’s easy to move to accommodate different needs.
  • Make it known that service dogs are welcome, and have water available for them.
  • Train staff on how to provide inclusive and appropriate service to make all customers feel welcome.

We’d love to hear from you if you’re on the coffee shop journey – get in touch for a free consultation. If you missed the first blog in the series – Choosing The Perfect Coffee Shop Location – catch up here!

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