Coffee Shop Ambiance Part II: Lighting, Flooring, Music and More

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We recently brought you tips for furnishing your cafe. Now it’s time to tackle a few other important elements of coffee shop ambience: lighting, flooring, music and more.

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  1. Light It Right.

Getting the lighting right is important to guests. We’ve all gone out to eat has experienced both eateries that are too dark or too bright for their liking. Just because we all have cell phones doesn’t mean we want to squint over a menu using the flashlight feature.

Consider your concept, and be sure the strength of the light suits the mood you wish to extend to your guests. Besides natural light (hopefully you’ve got plenty), you’ll want warm halogen or LED lights that are bright enough to read by but also not too harsh. No fluorescents—leave those to grocery stores.

Remember that your light fixtures will get attention from time to time, being the brightest objects in the room. So make sure they’re well maintained and clean. It seems funny, but even the cleanest restaurants sometimes forget this detail. You don’t want anyone looking up to catch an eyeful of a dusty, spider-web adorned lampshade over your table.

  1. Don’t go crazy with the flooring.

Who knows what gets into restaurant owners' heads when they’re picking out flooring? You see this all the time; an otherwise well-decorated establishment with paisley floor coverings not seen since 1973. Tile, hardwoods and linoleum don't suffer quite as much from this problem, but watch out for “faux” looks that scream “cheap.” Pick designs that are quiet and muted, while going along with the rest of your motif.

  1. Easy on the tunes.

Research has shown that diners spend less money at restaurants that don’t play music, so a silent or music-less space can be detrimental to sales.

The subliminal effect is the key here. Music should be audible but not distracting, creating ambience rather than overwhelming it. The exception is if you're going for authentic ethnic atmosphere, in which case music of the same nationality as your menu will be part of the sensory canvas. In that case, turn the speaker up a bit, but not too much.

  1. Warm them up.

No one wants to wear their coat while eating dinner. Of course, it's sweltering in the kitchen, and your wait staff is generating a lot of heat running around the tables. 70°F is usually acceptable. Minimize drafts or hot spots from lights as much as possible.

When guests enter your establishment, they should feel as though they are in a special, comfortable place. By taking the time to care for all of their senses, you’ll succeed in this necessity of earning regular customers.

  1. Don’t forget the outside.

The old saying tells us to avoid judging a book by its cover. But you can bet people will judge your establishment by how it looks from the outside. Make it attractive! Start with a prominent sign out front. The concept of your coffee shop will determine what style you should go with. Maybe a custom sign made from old barn wood is appropriate, or maybe a flash of neon fits the bill.

Get in touch with our coffee shop strategy experts

Related article: Coffee Shop Ambiance Part I: Furnishings