Author: Kit Kilroy
Date Posted: 13 December 2019
Nobody said that opening a cafe would be easy, and often, the things you need the most help with are the things that are the most overlooked. Sure, there are business advisors and financial planners to help you set up the monetary side of things; but what about the more seemingly simple aspects? What about the cafe design and aesthetic?
While it’s always possible to hire an interior designer, this can be an expensive and frustrating process. Especially if you’re in the early stages, it’s nearly impossible to know what you’re envisioning when you don’t even know how to begin.
Here, we break down a few critical steps about how to design a cafe. If you do each of these things, you’ll have a much clearer vision of how you want to design your cafe. That way, you’ll be able to create a coherent and cohesive aesthetic, making for an overall great atmosphere.
When searching out potential cafe locations, it can be tempting to jump on the first great deal you find. However, there is a lot of wisdom in pausing to ask yourself how your vision will fit in this space. If you know that your menu will be full of fresh, vibrant dishes, maybe that underground hidey-hole isn’t your best option. Conversely, if you plan on opening a speakeasy-style cocktail and tapas bar, the light-filled corner spot in a family neighbourhood is probably not right for you.
Think about your cafe holistically to determine just how you want the venue to reflect the menu, mission, and overall atmosphere that you hope to create. Everything from the type of neighbourhood, to the number of windows, can have a significant impact on your cafe, influencing whether you make it or break it in the end.
While this step might at first seem unrelated to the design of your cafe, your design and menu must speak to, and complement, one another. Take a minute to think about what kind of food you want to be serving right off the bat. If you don’t have an opening menu in mind yet, write down a few potential dishes you’d like to help at your cafe once it launches.
Focusing solely on the food still, come up with three adjectives that will determine what types of things will be on your menu. For example, you might say “fresh, healthy, green” or maybe “rich, savoury, meat”. Even if you want to have a bit of variety, you can still deduce three keywords to guide you, it could be something like “flavourful, unique, new”. The possibilities are endless, but make sure the words you choose reflect your goals and visions.
Now that you have those guiding adjectives in mind, you can also use them to design the look of your cafe as well. Because you want the food and style to mesh well throughout every aspect of the cafe, the interior should reflect the food that is being served: Remember, people are dining not just for the meal, but also to have an experience. By aligning your menu and design, you will make the experience a memorable one, rather than your run-of-the-mill brekkie stop.
By Australian standards, coffee is equally as important as food so it's essential to have a good coffee menu. Make sure you offer the most popular coffee orders, using high-quality beans to make them. Since customers can be picky about their coffee, you'll want to hire an experienced barista to crank out delicious drinks all day long.
Creating a consistent and recognisable colour palette is the first big “design” step you should take. If you have a few colours that you know you’ll be using as your cafe’s bespoke palette, everything from the plates to menus, to social media posts can tie back to the same theme. You want people to recognise your cafe’s brand immediately, and having a consistent colour theme is essential.
Allow your menu (or ideal menu) to shape which colours you will choose. If you’re going to be serving up spicy, South American flavours, try reds and oranges. Vegan cafe? Greens and blues are probably better. Of course, you can deviate and choose colours that might not appear in your dishes, but if you do, make sure these colours are reflected in the decor, dinnerware, and menus.
You can also choose colours based on how you want people to feel in your establishment. HGTV has a great cheat sheet showing which colours stimulate which emotions. For example, apricot orange can boost your guests’ appetites; and silver-grey might add a bit of romance to the setting. There are countless other sources to help you better understand how colours affect mood, so if that’s piquing your interest google “colour psychology” to learn more about how different hues can give your new cafe different energy altogether.
One of the most critical aspects of how your cafe will “feel” to visitors is the seating. While you’ll need tables and chairs, choosing the right ones for your cafe is an important step.
When considering tables, think about how your typical guest will be dining. If you imagine people coming to eat solo, you might want to focus on mostly small tables with a few large ones and vice versa. Keep in mind that tables and chairs can be easily moved around or joined together to adjust for different sized groups.
Also, ask yourself if every seat needs tablespace? Having a few comfortable chairs interspersed throughout the cafe can make for functional seating areas for guests who only want to have a cup of coffee, or sit down for a while and read. Not only will this save space in the venue, but it will also provide an area for people to linger without being obtrusive to service.
Before you begin buying those comfy chairs we just mentioned, go back to your original vision: Remember those three keywords and imagine what kinds of furniture will complement the personality of the cafe. For a rustic look, you can stick to wooden furniture, potentially even mixing and matching as you go. If you want something more sophisticated, solid plastic or metal chairs with uniform tables might be more your style.
Don’t just buy in bulk because it’s the cheapest, you can find good deals on anything if you spend the time, and it will be so worth it to have a cafe with impeccable design. If you go for standard run-of-the-mill options, this might limit how much personality your cafe’s look can achieve.
Think of cheaper ways to get a look that fits your aesthetic goal. Perhaps buying a long, wooden communal table would be less expensive than multiple small ones; and odds are it would look a lot better than un-sturdy, unstylish options as well.
Tableware is essential to any cafe, but rather than setting it on the backburner, think about ways that your tableware can work as accessories. From the shape of glasses to the colour of cutlery, there are endless ways to reiterate your ideal theme.
The possibilities are endless when you begin thinking of tableware as decorative elements. Plates can be chosen to fit within the colour scheme, reiterating the palette you have chosen. Glasses can be selected in different sizes, shapes, and thicknesses to enhance the look of your table settings. Cutlery can be chosen in modern or traditional styles to complement the rest of the decor. Once you begin to notice the little details, you will be surprised at what you can come up with.
You’ve put so much effort into design, and everything is perfect: from the paint on the walls to the plates on the tables. But what else needs attention? The staff. After all this hard work, it would be a shame to lose your sense of continuity to something like an apron. And regardless of whether you think people will notice, these little details do matter. Imagine if you set up your entire cafe to have a light and breezy feel, but then the floor staff are walking around in stiff, black half aprons. Rather than looking like they belong in a cafe, your team suddenly seem like misplaced French bistro servers.
Thankfully, there are so many options when it comes to cafe aprons that you can easily avoid this. By thinking about your staff aprons in advance and choosing them to match your cafe’s theme, you will complete the ambience that you’ve worked towards with your menu, colours, and furnishings.
From urban to traditional, there is an apron out there for every cafe. It’s all about keeping true to your vision and finding what works best for your cafe.
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