Coffee Shop Design Observations

Posted on

Brown (2009) states that design is not limited to designers and one can infer that he is speaking of designers by degree or qualification.  Many times I have watched TV shows such as The Block, Grand Designs and more recently Restaurant Revolution.  These shows are the stuff that dreams are made of and full of innovative concepts and little did I realise till today, examples of design thinking as not only the final product but the processes and journey it takes to bring these concepts to final form.

What about the local coffee shop I go to though?  Had I really taken much notice of the design?  Not really.  It is a local coffee shop attached to a large shopping centre and I go there because the staff are friendly and basically it is easy for me to pop in and out quickly.  I actually never take the time to sit and observe how the design of this coffee shop operates so to sit for 30 minutes inside was a novelty not only for me but for the staff as well.

Here is an overall sketch of the physical layout of the coffee shop.



The coffee shop is located right at one of the main entrances to the shopping centre.  It is always busy and the entryway can become crowded when there are people waiting for coffee, people waiting to pay and people needing to get through to sit in the coffee shop.


The ‘work area is partitioned by a wall which has a pass cut-out into the wall where the food is passed through from the kitchen.  Dirty plates and dishes are taken via a small single door to the kitchen and the final preparation for plates of food, such as adding cream and ice-cream are done in the coffee area or the bench space near the door to the kitchen.

The seating is very squashed together and little did I realise there were not many younger people or families using this coffee shop.  The clientele seemed to be retirees or groups of adults of no more than 3.  The tables in the centre had a space between of between 20-30 cm from the corner of one table to another and staff needed to pass food across the table to get to the people sitting in the centre.


While waiting for food and coffee, there was little to look at if facing towards the entrance of the shopping centre.  Selling drinks and food were definitely on the agenda of the owners as when facing towards the shop and shopping centre entrance the customer could see a drinks fridge, the preparation of food through the pass and the several glass jars that cluttered the bench surrounding the coffee machine that were full of cakes and biscuits.  As well there were some flowers in a vase.

An interesting observation is that two customers required walking aids and 1 customer had parked hers right in front of the cake fridge next to where she was seated and the other had to park hers outside the shop where trolleys also need to be put if using the coffee shop.

It was difficult to observe without judgement but it became apparent that I now knew why I prefer to get takeaway coffee rather than use the coffee shop.  The advantage this business has is that it is located in a prime position within the centre and the staff are always happy and friendly towards their customers.  While food and staff are central to customer experience in a coffee shop so too are the surroundings.


Brown, T. (2009) Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. Summary by Get Abstract. Retrieved from: