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3 clever design choices that keep your café customers coming back


Do you understand why people come back to your coffee shop?

The short answer to this may be ‘good coffee’ but the longer answer is more complex.

Hint: you’re selling an experience.

In this blog post, we look at three factors that come into play when retaining coffee shop customers, and providing a great experience lies at the heart of all of them.

This is a blog post about bagging those return visits through:

  • The importance of having a concept for your café
  • Why choosing for a smaller interior coffee shop space can actually be really important to your bottom line
  • How your design choices can help you retain café customers and win a regular clientele
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One: Understand your café concept

Like restaurants, cinemas and hotels, as a café owner, you’re selling an experience perhaps even more than you’re selling a product (your coffee is excellent, that’s a given).

Concept design is basically a lofty term for: how are you different? You differentiate yourself from other coffee shops by paying attention to subtle things like the atmosphere of your space, the acoustics, and the comfort level.

In order to know how your business is different, you need to think about two things.

  1. Why would people want to visit your coffee shop?
  2. What kinds of people are they?

Some examples or reasons why people frequent cafes include:

  • Your coffee shop has a comfortable working environment, with freely available sockets and free Wi-Fi
  • Your coffee shop is the perfect place for friends to meet up for a chat: not too loud (pay attention to the acoustics!) but with a friendly vibe nonetheless

Now, look at the kinds of people you want to entice into your café.

Are they retirees? Are they remote workers? Are they teenage friends coming home after school? Your café’s concept mostly depends on your target audience.

Explore more cosy interior design ideas here.

Combine your target audience with why people should visit your café in the first place: this will bring you to a rock-solid café concept.

Your concept should be clear throughout your café, from the wall art to the bathroom fixtures, to the cashier desk, to the colour scheme you use, counters, seating area, menu boards and display cases or shelves.

You need your concept locked down before you can advance to the next two tips in creating a comfortable café, so work on that first.

Compare the concepts of the three cafés below.

Who are they appealing to, and why? What can you learn from them to apply in your own coffee shop?

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Gertie Cafe, Williamsburg (Source: dezeen)

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Orang+utan cafe, Kiev (Source: dezeen)

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Daily cafe, Odessa (Source: dezeen)

Two: smaller spaces can actually work well for café owners

Unlike supermarkets, elevators or retail spaces, smaller interior spaces for coffee shops actually help in bringing people back.

Why could this be? There are four reasons:

  1. People choose coffee shops in small spaces because they look cosy and restful
  2. Small-space cafés play an interesting trick on the mind, urging people to choose them rather than a physically bigger café across the road because maybe there’s shorter queues and better service
  3. Small coffee shops ooze that handcrafted attention to detail feel you get when things come in smaller packages
  4. Fewer people can fit into a smaller coffee shop, which is an excellent trait to have if you are someone looking for somewhere quiet to work where you won’t be disturbed

If you’re in the stage of setting up a coffee shop and looking around for the perfect location, it will help your business success to keep smaller spaces in mind.

The ‘tiny home’ trend has a lot to teach us about small space design.

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Three: Cosy minimalism, homey cafés are successful cafés

Comfortable, cosy places appeal to most people, particularly on a wet autumn day or in the deep dark of winter. People will always return to familiar spaces where they felt safe and rested.

Achieving an informal but cosy feel is done through the combination of multiple design elements such as the lighting, the overall décor, the fabrics and materials used for soft furnishings. All of these elements work together in helping a café customer feel at ease to go about their business.

Just as if they were at home.

This kind of atmosphere is essential not only to create a comfortable café experience but also to your bottom line because customers typically spend a lot of time in cafés once they step through the door.
If the atmosphere isn’t welcoming enough, you lose out on customer retention and on daily profits.

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Untitled design 3

Thanks for reading!

Today we looked at everything you need to consider to create an inviting café environment that customers want to return to again and again (and again…).

Check our blog page regularly to never miss a post.


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