The Coffee Experience
Chapter 5: Layout
Now that your customer has entered the door and has been warmly greeted, the layout of the store becomes the central focus. The flow of your traffic should feel natural and easy for someone coming in for the first time. It should be easy for the customer to look over and evaluate the whole space, and then approach the counter to place their order. It was important to us that there was seating available in the front of the store so that coats, or bags could be left behind while the customer approaches the counter to order their drinks. With their hands empty it is easy to grab a coffee, fix it up, and return to their seat.
Carefully consider where you put your ordering area/POS station. Is it right in front of the entrance? Does it force people to push past the line to get inside, or worse, do they have to wait in the doorway if you get a rush? By putting the counter a little further back, not only does the customer get to see the entirety of the store upon walking in, but they also are not forced to be uncomfortable or “outside” of the coffee experience.
The layout of your coffee bar itself is another major consideration to take on. Not only is the layout important to barista efficiency, but it is also critical for the customer experience. From your POS and register, you should be immediately able to wash your hands in a hand sink. Handling money is dirty, and no one wants a filthy latte. When working the bar solo, the hand-washing part is critical. When working with a second barista, one should tend the register, and the other to the drinks to maintain clean hands.
The heart and soul of your bar is your espresso machine, and it should hold a prominent place on that bar. Place your espresso machine on the front part of your bar, so that you can face your customer while making their drink, and engage them in conversation. The most frequent mistake I see in a coffee bar setup is putting the espresso machine on the back wall. Yes, the customer may see some neon buttons or lights, but it is rude and inconsiderate to turn your back on someone while you make their drink. It doesn’t happen in alcohol bars, and it should never happen in coffee bars either.
While making their drink (on the espresso machine, or as a pour-over) ask about their day, and get to know them. Make eye contact and always maintain a positive attitude. It is critical to make them happy and to send them away floating! Your café may be their only bright spot in the daily activities, and that positivity will keep them coming back to get their solace. After making their drink, hand it to them at the final station on your bar, the pick up station.