A simple coffee shop experience has been turned on its head with the inclusion of an observation exercise. Normally I am immersed into my thoughts and conversions with a counterpart,as I sip a pleasurable cup of quality tea or latte. Covertly observing the normal day to day interactions of coffee shop clientèle and staff with the surrounding environment had a sense of James Bond, though in my case possibly ‘Secret Squirrel’.
Knowing that the location of the coffee shop was originally a small clothing store, it becomes obvious that the coffee shop has had to design their floor area to suit the constraints of the building. The previous staff/store (out of sight to coffee shop users) are near the counter area has now become the kitchen, and the old counter has been re-purposed for greeting customers and taking orders. The coffee shop has made a point of re-purposing furniture and decorative items. In doing so they have been able to present a cosy environment, which they are renowned for.
In observing customers and staff for the half hour suggested it was interesting to note the concessions that the staff have had to make to work in with the shop setting. With limited space on the shop floor and the need to make the shop viable has meant that tables are close together, and uninhibited movement by the staff is not always possible. This is particularly evident when a staff member needs to exit to the outdoor area. A large door, with awkward handle, has to be negotiated with customer orders in hand. If the day is cool, then the door needs to closed behind them for continued customer comfort.
This coffee shop is a busy place on weekends in the summer and is usually full of tourists seeking cooked breakfast, light lunches or relaxing coffee and cake. Although the day of my visit was a cold winters day, it was still quite a busy with most tables full. The talk amongst customers was casual and none seemed to be uncomfortable with the general noise or movement through the area. The temperature was cool outside but pleasant in the building. The large extensive windows provide plenty of natural light which is supplemented with a small number of ceiling lights.
To counter the closeness of the furniture on the floor, the coffee shop has kept the decorations simple with a classic/retro theme. Again the windows have helped open out the perceived area.
Children are welcomed and the staff have a supply of item to cater for seating young toddlers, or entertaining older children. The padded seat along the back wall is popular with families and older visitors as it is surprisingly easy to access with a pram or walker frame. In the time I was there the range of customers extended from a baby in a pram to an elderly man in a wheel chair. The chairs however needed repositioning to suit the wheelchair and a table was shifted to enable access.
The staff seem to cope reasonably well with the flow through the space to serve customers. The counter area is generally kept efficiently clear of people waiting to place orders and the proximity of the front door near the counter means that an incoming customers can quickly assess if they will be able to locate a seat inside. The size and location of the door at the front can cause an issue for the staff as they take orders outside to a few tables on the front verandah. With the door being situated close the customer ordering area, opening into the customer standing area, having a reasonable weight and resistance, along with having a handle that is difficult to use if both hands are full, are obvious issues for waiting staff.
In looking at the design of the space utilisation for this coffee shop, it is evident that the owners have sort advice, or undertaken a design process. It would be hard to imagine that good fortune has lead to such a customer friendly environment. I would also suggest the the staff is also carefully selected, as some concessions need to made to cater to the needs of the customer.