The importance of a coffee shop interior

4 min read

The growth in coffee shops on the high street continues (it is estimated there will be 30,000 coffee shops in the UK by 2025), as does the growth of coffee fuelled conversations within the workplace as a fundamental part of our working lives – so often if we want to connect socially or meet informally (within our professional lives) we suggest a coffee. It’s a universally understood invitation for an informal meet up.

As designers of coffee shops and workplaces we’ve been exploring the blurred boundaries of these spaces and believe that the design of the coffee shop has an important role to play.

A 2018 study conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research featured in the Telegraph reports that Brits now drink 95 million coffees a day; an increase of 25 million being in the last 10 years alone.  To put it into context, the average Brit spends £15,600 in coffee shops over their lifetime. In terms of how often we frequent these spaces in the UK, 80% of us visit coffee shops on a weekly basis, with 16% of us visiting on a daily basis (Italiana Roma Coffee).

Now a fundamental social playground, the coffee shop has evolved over the last century alongside the growth in coffee consumption to fulfil a social need for spaces outside the realms of the office or the home.

What once was satisfied by a visit to a local pub has now evolved from an evening beer to an afternoon coffee, showing a shift in what the UK sees as a “third place”. With the first space being the home and the second being our work environment, theorist Ray Oldenburg in 1989 wrote of the societal importance of a “third place” that provides a home away from home and acts as a neutral ground, levelling social status and individualism to bring together society, of which coffee shops now fall perfectly within.

As consumers shun material possessions in favour of experience-led offerings, coffee shops have capitalised on this cultural shift by becoming popular destinations for work, socialising and convenience. By offering in-store experiences such as tastings, barista theatre and in-house roasting, the industry has generated a unique and highly attractive cultural proposition (European Coffee Symposium).  They are now enticing customers to further linger in their seats, understanding the important social need they provide alongside their product offering food and Wi-Fi to encourage longer stays, all rolled into increasingly well considered interiors.

So why does it matter what the interior design of a space looks like in relation to the coffee your drinking?

For us, the interior space plays an important role in how the customer feels whilst enjoying their coffee and for the business this design can impact on operations, attracting customers and brand loyalty.

The interior design is working imperatively towards the customer experience. The brand that customers connect with is the feeling they take away from having enjoyed their coffee within a physical space. The space contributes to the wider factors on which we base our choices such as ethics, personal taste, signage, packaging and digital presence.

How the space is laid out, furnished, lit and decorated all impact on the customer experience – as humans we respond intuitively to light levels, noise levels, colour and materials. Because of this designers can shape spaces that will resonate and communicate at an intuitive level with customers.

The impact of a well-considered interior adds to the overall experience of a brand; you may take in the warming atmosphere as you enter, be stimulated by the theatre of the bar, feel in harmony with the materials that surround you.

What you feel will depend on the brief agreed with the client and the works undertaken. We shape our designs to encourage behaviours, to influence the flow of people queuing, to promote retail displays, to get people in and out quickly or encourage them to linger longer and switch off.

The response to any interior is like that of every art form – subjective. Because of this the joy occurs when you create an interior space that connects with people and the space contributes to building a business. Our process is to engage with businesses that want design to impact on their customer experience shaping spaces where good things happen.

So the next time you stop at a coffee shop, take a moment to look around. Notice how people are interacting within the space and the feeling that is shared through form, layout, materiality and furniture; because that feeling has been intentionally formed and guided. As humans we have an emotional response to space, and different environments will speak to us individually. How does the space around you make you feel?

Words: Anna Hart & Sophie Chapman