Coffee Shop Ambiance Part I: Furniture

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At your restaurant or café, you have free rein to appeal to the senses of your customers. The quality of your food and drinks and the smells coming from the kitchen are obvious selling points. But when a customer first enters and looks around, your ambience—or design and decor—can determine if they stay or go, or come back a second time.

In this series on restaurant ambience, we’ll explore the visual and audible queues that will keep your guests comfortable, and coming back.


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Heretofore are tips on furnishing your establishment:

  1. Tables are telltale signs.

Between the bar, booths and tables, it's the tables that are the most likely to look cheap or tacky. Unless you're running a small cafe or deli, a square table on a single pole with four flimsy chairs around it will not invite people to spend much time at your establishment. (But maybe that’s the point, if you’re a quick-serve lunch spot). If yours is the type of place that would benefit from customers sticking around to order dessert or a macchiato, there are relatively inexpensive seating options that will look great. Booths, however, are prized seating environments, inviting guests to relax at their leisure.

  1. Spice it up with variety.

Your best bet is to offer a variety of seating: A bar for the business people dashing in for a quick bite, tables for families with children, and booths for the leisure crowd and intimate couples. Sit down in each seating piece for a few minutes, and notice how comfortable it is (or not). Perhaps your hard, wobbly chairs are why guests aren't staying beyond the main course.

  1. Keep it clean.

Rips, tears and stains in fabric need to be repaired or the piece needs to be replaced. Major scuffs need to be sanded, repainted, etc. Instead of grumbling at the expense, be glad it’s come to this. Restaurants that go out of business aren’t around long enough to see their furniture wear out. Duct-tape repairs are fit for truck stops, but nowhere else.

  1. Divide and conquer.

A private room for events will give you a boost in income, as families, social clubs and business groups are always looking for places to book their parties. Even a partition or two or planter boxes can create a neat division of seating space, helping to drown out noise and give guests some extra visual stimulation. Even when there’s no party on the books, these sectioned-off areas let guests choose their own section, and a chance to separate themselves from cell-phone talkers, hyper children, cackling laughter, etc.


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