In the speciality food and beverage industry, every detail counts. The coffee beans and tea leaves served, the food, customer service, design, layout: these all demand close attention.
Let’s look at shop layout in a little more detail. Whether it’s a small café or a spacious restaurant, the correct use of space won’t just reinforce branding and create a good atmosphere. It will also improve performance, efficiency, and even customer satisfaction.
Performance & Efficiency
Bryan Duggan, Manager in the Technical Department of specialty coffee roastery Counter Culture Coffee, tells me, “A thoughtful bar design is invaluable in making a café efficient.”
The less the barista has to travel between different areas of the coffee bar, the more efficient they will be. Shaving a few seconds off per beverage will, in a high-volume location, add up to significantly more customers served per barista per day.
Proximity to equipment, tools, milk, customers, and even visibility – these are key. So too is the espresso machine and grinder height. Underneath storage is a useful tool.
While it might be tempting to open up the space behind the bar to create a clean, modern aesthetic, Bryan reminds us that having too much space is a common mistake. The more room there is, the greater distance staff must go to serve customers.
Instead, use just the right amount of space needed to create the most efficient layout – and then rely on good design to avoid it looking cluttered. Take the multi-temp Marco Mix hot water distribution system, which Bryan points out makes for “a clean countertop” (and it also saves space by moving the water boiler under that counter).
Similarly, anything that doesn’t need to be behind the bar should be moved elsewhere. Kasim Ali, Founder of the World Tea Brewer’s Cup and the Cardiff-based Waterloo Tea chain, says, “If we can go a week without using any item behind the counter – it shouldn’t be there. If space is even more precious, then this week can be reduced all the way down to hours.”
Faster service will always equate to better customer satisfaction, but there are more ways design and layout can be used to improve service.
“An aesthetically pleasing environment almost always improves a customer experience, especially when coupled with a friendly interaction,” Bryan says.
He points out that poor design can make “ordering and receiving a drink uncomfortable because it [isn’t] clear or intuitive what to do as a customer”. People buying drinks should be able to immediately understand where they need to go to pay for and collect them.
The Importance of Design
Another point to consider: what should customers be able to see – and what should be hidden?
Kasim tells us, “Our teahouses have always aimed to be as open as possible – with the equipment and staff being as visible as possible… Counters where there are ‘barricades’ set up between the public and staff are also off-putting – with little peepholes in between machinery. The rise in undercounter technology is to be applauded to circumnavigate this potential pitfall.”
He uses the Marco Eco under-counter boilers and Uber fonts: the sleek design means customers can watch the tea-brewing taking place while baristas continue talking to them. This substantially increases the amount of interaction they have, compared to a traditional setup where the barista may turn their back on the customer, and in turn opens the door to much better service.
On the other hand, Bryan gives the examples of hiding the mess around the espresso station while making the pour over coffee bar accessible. Good visibility enables a good customer experience – but not everything needs to be in view!
No café owner, hotelier, or restaurateur can afford to overlook shop layout. An efficient and customer-orientated space can have a significant impact on customer satisfaction, retention, and profit levels. The right equipment – including hot beverage solutions – is a key part of this.