September 1, 2015

Design 101: 6 Ways to Make Customers Return to Your Cafe


Design is everywhere. It’s in the packaging of the coffee sitting on your counter. It’s in the art hanging on the wall in your favorite shop. It’s in the layout of tables and chairs, the lighting, and the presence or absence of space.

Design is personal. Some love the stark minimalism of Scandinavian design while others prefer the rustic, rough hewn look of reclaimed wood. One person’s clutter is another’s cozy. Some people want a place where they can come socialize, study, and hang out for hours. Others need to get in and out on their way to work.

SEE ALSO: 5 Golden Rules For Opening Your Own Coffee Shop In A Producing Country

Yet no matter how subjective it is, design can make your customers feel welcome and keep them wanting to come back. It can be used to communicate cleanliness, comfort, and even quality—as well as personal style and function.

6 Key Elements

Design is so much more than just layout and color scheme. In fact, design is unlimited. Yet for coffee shops, there are six key elements that customers look for.

1. Cleanliness

Cleanliness isn’t just clearing tables and mopping floors. To have a clean design, lean towards simplicity. Keep clutter to a minimum by limiting items and decoration to things that add real value. Cleanliness doesn’t have to mean minimalism, but every element of design in your shop should be carefully considered before being installed.

2. Aroma

Everyone loves the smell of coffee and freshly prepared food, so keep it coming to your customers. Make sure you don’t overpower those hunger-inducing food and beverage smells with perfume, air fresheners, or other artificial smells.

3. Lighting

Lighting determines both the mood and the function. Are your customers looking for well-lit tables for studying or informal business meetings, or are they there to hang out with friends or dates? If they’re hanging out with friends, what customer behaviour do you want to encourage? Low lighting will invite people to linger and perhaps purchase a second drink, while bright lighting will make people move more quickly, thereby increasing seating turnover and possibly leading to more sales.

Lee este artículo en español 6 Ideas de Diseño Para Hacer Que Tus Clientes Vuelvan a tu Café

Lighting is an important design feature of your café

The right lighting can make the difference between a great experience or a frustrating one.

4. Furniture

Comfortable furniture is as much about placement and function as it is about cushions. Many customers like to find a nook or cranny and park there for a while, so make sure you have seats with a structure (such as a wall or bookshelf) on at least one side. Make sure to have practical chairs as well as cosy ones, though. Couches that are too soft might literally make your customers fall asleep—which isn’t great if they’re trying to write an essay. Instead why not try a gloss dining table and chairs so they still provide that comfort but also add fashion to the shop.

Furniture plays an integral role in café design

Sometimes you want a comfy chair, sometimes you need a more rigid one.

5. Windows

While a dimly-lit underground speakeasy might be perfect for that late-night cocktail, it’s not so appropriate for your morning coffee. Sunshine (if you can get it) leaves customers feeling upbeat and positive, while a view of the outside world gives them a way to escape their cubicle. Whether for the view or the opportunity to people-watch, your patrons will love having natural light.


Windows provide natural lighting and help customers feel relaxed.

6. Space

Space should mimic purpose. If your shop’s a gathering place for friends, make sure there’s plenty of room for groups. If your shop attracts business people rushing to appointments, set it up to let people get in and out quickly. If your shop’s a place for people to linger, place comfy seats in areas with inviting lighting.

coffee and work

Do your customers have the space they need for meetings?

Make the space welcoming. Create an obvious customer flow with minimal breaks, so that people don’t have to wonder where to go next. Pay attention to where your regulars sit. More often than not they will gravitate to the same seat or the same general part of the café. Some customers may even become territorial toward “their” seat. There shouldn’t be a bad seat in the house—but every seat is a little bit different. Create as much premium seating for as many different people as possible.

Seating is part of a café's design

Do your regulars have their own seat at the bar?

Many people like being near others without interacting. Some like the comfort of familiar strangers. They may gravitate toward a spot that allows them to people-watch while maintaining personal space. Remember to think about the space between seats as well as the space around a seat.

Design 101: Know Your Customers

The recurring theme in our six elements is matching design choices to your customers needs and wants. Coffee shops aren’t just places to drink coffee. They’re places to socialize, conduct business, study, escape, or more. Learn what your customers want, and design your shop to match. Create a place that makes a customer feel at home and they will keep coming back.

Perfect Daily Grind