A Guide to Redesigning your Coffee Shop

Today’s coffee shops are all about experience. Serving beverages quickly is one thing, but customers also want to feel comfortable and at home from the moment they walk through your door. 

To provide your customers with the best possible experience, design and layout are key. A visually striking coffee shop will help you attract more patrons, while an efficient structure will allow your team to manage the flow of customers more effectively. 

If you’re thinking about redesigning, now is arguably the time to do so. Closures and operational limits through the Covid-19 pandemic have undoubtedly made things difficult for the hospitality sector, but also provide you with an opportunity to reflect and improve. 

Once everything reopens, who knows: a new look coffee shop could help you draw consumers back and keep your brand at the front of people’s minds. 

But what should you consider when you set out to redesign your café space? To learn more, we spoke with the co-owners of Brew, a local café in the heart of downtown Traverse City.

Brew TC interior view

What to consider when redesigning your coffee shop 

Sean Kickbush and Missy Charles are the co-owners of Brew, a locally-owned independent coffeehouse in downtown Traverse City. Brew offers a range of organic coffees, microbrew beers, local wines, and house crafted cocktails. 

Sean and Missy told us more about what coffee shop owners should consider when redesigning their space. 

Takeout options 

When coffee shops were forced to close both indoor and outdoor seating spaces during the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a subsequent increase in takeout, delivery, and curbside orders. 

Not only did this provide a much-needed source of income for coffee shops, it allowed them to continue serving the needs of their customers. 

As the hospitality sector reopens, many expect a return to old habits, which would mean a fall in the number of takeout orders. However, Sean says that the change in consumer behavior over the last year won’t revert overnight – and that you should still expect some demand to remain.

“Consumer confidence is undoubtedly on the rise,” he says. “However, it will take a long time for it to bounce back completely.” 

He adds that restructuring your space to accommodate takeaway orders shows that you have taken consumer concerns about hygiene and social distancing into account. This can help customers feel at ease in your coffee shop. 

Barista workflow 

If your bar layout is not carefully planned, there will inevitably be an impact on staff efficiency. Barista workflow is important; you should ensure that everything “flows” seamlessly from the point of sale through the bar to the exact point where the customer is served. 

Minor tweaks like moving the grinder next to the espresso machine or making sure mugs, milk jugs, and other supplies are within reach can make a huge difference. 

“Any time a redesign happens, efficiency in all forms should be the guiding light,” Sean says. “Get rid of frivolous items on the menu, and do away with equipment that isn’t really needed.” 

In addition to improving staff efficiency, you’ll ensure that customers are served quality drinks without having to wait long.

Brew TC interior

Energy efficiency and equipment 

Equipment takes up space and often uses energy, which translates into an operational cost for your business. In the interest of being efficient and maximizing profitability, you should make sure to only have equipment behind the bar if it meets the specific needs of your coffee shop. 

For example, a small coffee shop with relatively low foot traffic doesn’t need a three-grouphead espresso machine, which would arguably be more suited to a larger coffee shop with high customer turnover. 

While it might be tempting to invest in more equipment as you expand, keep in mind that each new fixture behind your bar will take up space, cost money, and could disrupt staff workflow. Each machine will also use more energy, further increasing your costs and raising your carbon footprint. 

If you do think new equipment is necessary when planning a redesign, Sean says that opting for second-hand items and choosing to refurbish and repair can help you keep costs down. 

“It’s always nice to work on new equipment, but some of our best stuff isn’t new,” he explains. “Maintain what you have, replace broken parts immediately, and buy new equipment only when it’s absolutely needed.”

Brew TC interior

Customer space 

Understanding how customers interact within your coffee shop is key. Your space should be comfortable and welcoming, while still being clear enough for customers to navigate. 

When you’re redesigning, try to answer some key questions from a customer perspective. Is it clear where customers can order? What about where they receive their beverages? Are the toilets easy to find? Are indoor signs visible and easy to read? 

To find the answers to these questions, try putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and think about how they would behave. Ask a friend or family member to walk around your coffee shop – they might be able to provide you with a fresh perspective. 

Prioritize safety and hygiene 

Although the pandemic has raised concerns about health and safety, practicing good hygiene has always been an important part of running a coffee shop. As businesses start to reopen, this should not change.

Make sure health and safety protocols are front and centre. Create clear exit routes and allow plenty of space for social distancing. If possible, one-way systems should be implemented to control the flow of customers. 

These key decisions won’t just help you remain compliant with local regulations; they will also help customers feel more comfortable in your space. 

However, Missy points out that it’s not just the customers’ wellbeing that should be considered; staff also need to feel safe in their workplace. 

“Care for your employees. They’re your most valuable assets,” she says. “They are the face of your business and the ambassadors of your vision.” 

Brew TC window seat

Redesigning your coffee shop might seem like a daunting task. It can be time-consuming, costly, and difficult. 

However, when a redesign has been carefully considered and properly executed, it can have countless benefits for your business. As well as improving staff efficiency and optimizing workflow, it can help you implement changes to the customer experience and even allow you to drive brand awareness.

Looking back at the way Covid-19 has affected the hospitality sector, it’s clear that rethinking the way you serve customers has become more important than ever. With the right guidance and a touch of foresight, a redesign can be an exciting opportunity for you, your staff, and your customers.


Photo credits: Brew TC