Here are a few thoughts, not from a cafe owner, but a cafe go-er. You may not agree with all of them, but it'll be good to get you thinking.
Take the time to choose the right building:
Your space is hugely important, you obviously want it to look cool. But it needs to feel good. There are some spaces which look really cool but are just a bit big and out of proportion with us as humans. A huge abandoned building with exposed brick and an 8-metre stud will look amazing, but make sure your space is ‘nice to be in’. Not too loud, easy to control the climate. Just ask yourself if you think the space is ‘nice to be in’, and if you would enjoy hanging out in here.
Pioneer Works, Red Hook
Little & Friday, Auckland
Consider the aspect:
When do you drink coffee? In the morning. And that’s when you want morning sun the most. Spaces filled with the sun are just better - for every reason. Make sure you focus on the sun and think about what it may be doing in other seasons.
This one sounds boring but there is nothing more frustrating than wanting to grab something quickly or meet a friend and you cant find a park anywhere. Something to think about in cities with cars.
Stool by Dowel Jones
Whenever you walk into a cafe or restaurant and head towards your table, deep down, everyone wants to sit in the booth seat with the comfy cushion. Leaving the other one with the chair. A chair or stool’s top priority is to hold a person, this is a relatively easy task which most chairs manage to achieve. The second priority is to be comfortable, a harder task which is often overlooked and sacrificed for the chair’s third most important job - looking good. Consider strength comfort and aesthetics and I am sure you will be able to find something to keep everyone happy. Chairs are usually more comfortable than stools.
Make sure things are functional:
Simple things like salt and pepper grinders which grind nicely. This is often overlooked. There does seem to be a worldwide shortage of good salt and pepper grinders which last. But yeah, test them every couple of months and make sure they work. Lots of people love chilli - consider another grinder for chilli flakes or have hot sauce (the USA is good at hot sauce, other countries - not so much)
Another thing which is important to think about is the lock on the toilet door. I would suggest a lock that the patron can see is physically stopping the door from being opened. The locks which are concealed in the door with a vacant/occupied tag which has often been slightly dislodged making the reading open for interpretation is not good enough. Replace dirty old magazines.
Little Victories, Bristol
Make your space worth sharing.
Advertising is expensive, but free advertising is not. The best way to get free advertising is for people to share your space on Instagram. The way to do this is to make your space cool, make it different, make it remarkable (there is a great book called The Purple Cow by Seth Godin about making your product/cafe something worth sharing). You want your customers to come in and start taking photos with their phones and posting them on Instagram. That’s free advertising. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make your menu epic, and that’s exactly what Little Victories in London have done with their menu display. If you look on Instagram at photos they are tagged in you will find so many photos of the counter/menu display. It’s quite similar to the George & Willy Letter Display letterboard.
Sketch in London has embraced has created a purple cow (something remarkable which is worth sharing) Everything is pink and cushy and the walls are covered in art by David Shrigley. (The chairs also serve all three purposes discussed above very well).
Maru Coffee, LA
Have lots of power points:
People need to charge their laptops and phones, make it easy for them.
Little & Friday, Auckland
Keep it looking clean:
Shoe scuffs on white walls don’t look good, make sure your space is nice and light but can also take a bit of a beating. Also, table tops must not be sticky, it’s surprising how many of them are though.
Letter Display by George & Willy
Thanks for reading, would love to hear what your feedback!