An effective coffee shop floor plan uses visual cues and physical barriers to guide customers through the ordering process and showcase retail products along the route. The best coffee shop floor plans are easy to navigate and contain options that appeal to customers looking for a comfortable space to lounge and work or simply grab their signature drink on the go.
Coffee shops combine the challenges of retail and restaurant operations; their inventory contains highly perishable dairy products and high value retail items like brewing equipment. There is no single floor plan that universally applies to all coffee shops. A coffee shop’s design will be influenced by the shop’s location, size, relation to the street, and target customer, as illustrated in the chart below.
Examples of Coffee Shop Floor Plans
Floor Plan Description
Narrow counter on the same plane as the front door, with counter seating along storefront windows
Small shops in an urban center, shops in suburban strip malls.
A central counter surrounded by retail display. This shop may sell a variety of impulse purchases like reusable mugs, snacks, or newspapers.
Pit stop coffee shop that relies on grab & go sales without seating.
Lots of lounge seating spread across various levels and rooms allows customers to use the space as a meeting place for casual dates or business meetings.
Large shops in a city center.
A long espresso bar running in the back of the shop, intimate seating arrangements of various sizes spread throughout.
Large suburban shops with parking lots.
An espresso bar facing a wide open entrance, limited seating, and lots of retail display space on the walls. A circular bar can make the most of tight spaces.
Coffee shops in mall locations.
Considering each of those factors— location, size, and target customer— is a great way to generate ideas for your coffee shop floor plan, and it’s just one step in opening a coffee shop. Let’s start with location.
Coffee Shop Floor Plans Based on Location
A coffee shop’s location will have a large impact on its look, which is similar to choosing a restaurant location. Coffee shops in densely populated cities or historic neighborhood enclaves tend to be set close to the street and rely on foot traffic. Shops in suburban areas or strip malls struggle with visibility because they’re often set back from the street in wide parking lots. Coffee shops in college towns and small towns have the benefit of a captive audience that sometimes comes with the added pressure to act as a community hub.
Coffee Shops in Cities
City-based coffee shops tend to rely on foot traffic and may be closer to sidewalks with limited parking access. Shops in high foot-traffic areas need to make the most of signage at eye level. Designing a shop with large, street-facing windows allows for a shop to showcase visually impactful back wall displays. Running countertop seating along these windows increases occupancy while making your shop look busy and inviting.
Coffee Shops in Suburban Locations
Coffee shops in suburban locations need to grab the attention of folks passing through, as well as support a vibrant local community to draw surrounding people out of their homes and into the shop. Some shops in this category will rely on foot traffic while others depend on driving traffic. Both usually serve commuter populations, so a drive-thru window can be a useful addition, where zoning permits.
Small Town & College Town Coffee Shops
A location near a college or university is ideal for a coffee shop; coffee and studying go hand in hand. Shop owners in these locations will need to allow lots of room for studying and plan for customers who “camp.” College town coffee shops will also want to have lots of tables, with aisles wide enough to accommodate backpacks and book totes.
Coffee shops in small, college-free towns also tend to become community gathering spaces and can rely on similar strategies. Coffee shop floor plans in both locations should have furniture that can be easily rearranged for music performances, readings, or open mic nights. This type of coffee shop layout also pushes the espresso counter to the back of the shop to allow staff a broad view of the service floor, so they can easily see areas that need to be cleaned or re-stocked.
Coffee Shop Floor Plans Based on Size
The size of your space will determine what possibilities you have. Small spaces with limited square footage may seem like a challenge for creating a coffee shop floor plan, but they have the benefit of allowing staff to efficiently manage all areas of the operation. Shops with a large footprint have the space to accommodate many customers at once but may struggle to create a layout with minimal blind spots.
Coffee shops in urban centers have unique challenges that vary depending on their size. City shops tend to be high volume and support a wide variety of coffee drinkers, though coffee shop layouts for large and small city-based shops vary slightly.
Small City-Based Coffee Shops
Small coffee shops in city locations must usually make the most of historic buildings and oddly shaped spaces. A graphic wall that faces a street-facing window can work well for these small shops. High-contrast outdoor signage helps customers on foot find your shop. Placing electrical outlets near windows encourages customers to sit, which makes your shop look appealing to passersby. The first floor plan in the chart above is a good example of a small city coffee shop layout.
Large City-based Coffee Shops
Large coffee shops in busy urban areas tend to have a community expectation that they act as a backup living or meeting room for local residents and travelers. As result, many large coffee shops in urban centers offer a mix of countertop seating and soft seating areas. They may also create room dividers with shelves or furniture that display merchandise. To allow room for lines to form, the espresso counter tends to run along the widest wall and may be seated at the back of the shop.
City-Based Pit Stops and Coffee Carts
City centers are great locations for coffee carts and quick stops. G&B Coffee in Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market uses a long counter and vertical display space to capture foot traffic from a nearby subway stop and serve those customers quickly. A quick stop shop should be small enough to fit in high traffic areas where a traditional shop won’t do. They can utilize vertical space to sell retail items like mugs and coffee beans, or impulse purchases like newspapers and chewing gum.
Coffee shops in the suburbs also need to capture customer attention to drive sales, but the strategies they employ will be different from their city-based counterparts. These shops may need to add drive-thru capabilities to support commuter customers and employ attention-grabbing strategies to alert drivers to their location.
Large Suburban Shops with Parking Lots
Where zoning allows, large shops set back from the road benefit from signage posted at a height that can be seen for several blocks or even a nearby highway. Coffee shops may add a drive-thru to their operation and potentially create a configurable space for live music or other activities to draw in the neighboring community.
Suburban Coffee Shops in Strip Malls
Coffee shops sited in strip mall locations should try to build in a free-standing or corner location, as these are most likely to support a drive-thru. In communities that rely on drivers rather than foot traffic, adding a drive-thru to your coffee shop floor plan can increase sales. Adding a window behind a counter, like the one in the first floor plan in the chart above, works well for such a small shop.
Coffee Shops in Shopping Malls
Coffee shops in shopping malls have to compete for attention in a space that has many additional rules about signage. They have the benefit, however, of a somewhat captive audience that is eager for a pick-me-up. Mall coffee shop floor plans tend to be built around long, welcoming countertops. These may be floating in the center of a thoroughfare, or they may be a traditional shop with four walls, where the counter is surrounded by retail display.
Coffee Shop Floor Plans Based on Target Customer
Decisions about your coffee shop layout may also be influenced by your target customer and what features appeal to them. A 2016 BRITA Professional study found that there are three main categories of coffee shop customers: shoppers, socializers, and take-a-breakers. These three types have different expectations of an ideal coffee shop experience and use the coffee shop space in distinct ways.
The BRITA study describes coffee shop “shoppers” as customers who are in your shop for a one-time transaction. Shoppers are coffee patrons that are passing through and looking for a quiet, comfortable, one-time experience in your shop. In a busy city, “shoppers” might be visiting tourists. In a suburban setting, shoppers could be travelers passing through town. In a mall setting, shoppers are people that are taking some downtime in the midst of a larger shopping excursion.
In all those scenarios, shoppers prize a comfortable place to sit, and friendly staff. Though shoppers are not interested in events that might be happening in your shop. They are usually seeking a quiet shop.
Customers who meet friends, dates, or business prospects in a coffee shop are “socializers.” They tend to like secluded nooks in coffee shops and prize a welcoming ambiance. In a densely populated neighborhood or small town location, socializers are potential regular customers. They may return for open mic nights or live music in your shop. They may also build relationships with your staff and add a sense of community to your business.
Coffee shops in any location will have some percentage of socializer customers. Small towns and tightly knit neighborhoods—both urban and suburban—will likely see a higher percentage of them, however. Locations with a large number of social-style customers will want to prioritize seating arrangements that are intimate and easily rearranged to accommodate different sized groups.
Take-a-breakers are the third customer type. They are folks who visit a coffee shop once a day or more. Take-a-breakers tend to be individuals who work nearby and need a quick way to refuel during their day. Since they are usually coming from a work environment, they tend to enjoy people watching from a countertop or window seat.
Coffee shops located near office towers will likely have a high percentage of take-a-breaker customers. These shops will want to make it easy for customers to order quickly and provide a lot of countertop seating.
The Floor Plan Beyond Your Storefront
In addition to designing the part of the coffee shop that your customers will use, owners will need to consider the employee-only areas of the space, much like any restaurant floor plan. A comprehensive coffee shop floor plan will also include space for equipment like refrigerators and dishwashers as well as space for tasks that should be performed outside of the service area, like counting cash.
A complete coffee shop floor plan should consider:
- Local health code standards: Local health codes will require the placement of sinks for hand-washing and dish-washing. You will also need to have enough refrigerators to keep perishable products like milk below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Local building codes: You may need to consult with an architect or building contractor to ensure that water lines, electrical lines, and both ventilation and sanitation plans adhere to local building codes.
- Storage needs: You may want to have space to store back stock, cleaning supplies, and employee belongings off the service floor.
- Office requirements: It is a good idea to have a cash safe as well as space to secure personnel files.
- Sanitation procedures: Coffee shops generate a lot of garbage in the form of paper cups, sugar packets, and milk cartons. You will want to have an easy route to dispose of garbage several times a day.
These regulations and operational considerations will influence the placement of your equipment. As you finalize some of these details, new challenges may arise in the form of security issues and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Local building codes and health department regulations will have some influence over what type of equipment you use and where it can be placed. Hand-washing sinks and dishwashers require floor drains; refrigerators and ovens will need room for ventilation. Some buildings—particularly those in densely populated areas—may not support cooking equipment. It is a good idea to get the advice of a contractor who is familiar with installing restaurant equipment to let you know where you can place floor drains or ovens.
Some things can’t move or are so expensive to move that it makes sense to leave them alone. When you are drawing your coffee shop layout, keep your eye out for where electrical lines and water lines have been run in the building. It is most cost effective to plan your equipment placement where these lines are easily accessible. If you are looking at raw space, you will need to find a contractor to give you an estimate on running lines where you need them.
When planning your floor plan, think about how your team will dispose of garbage throughout the course of the day. A back door in a staff area that leads directly to your dumpsters is ideal, but if that is not possible and your staff will have to carry garbage out the main entrance, then you’ll want to plan to have large trash receptacles throughout your shop to reduce trips.
Wi-Fi is another connection you need to consider, not just for your customers, but for your own operation. If you plan to use a cloud-based point of sale (POS) system, like Square, you want to be sure that the Wi-Fi router is not blocked by walls, as this can create communication issues and cause your system to malfunction.
All places of business that are open to the public have certain obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You can find the document in full on the ADA website, but essentially the ADA will impact the width of aisles, doorways, counter height, and restroom design. Some buildings of historic value may be precluded from a few of these obligations, but you want to be sure to check.
According to research by TSYS, a payment services company, one-third of coffee shop transactions are paid in cash. This can make coffee shops a target for employee theft as well as robbery attempts. Owners should review their finished coffee shop floor plan to identify security issues like blind spots and back entrances. These are opportunities for shop owners to place security cameras in areas that will help protect customers and staff.
A wireless security company like Simplisafe has affordable options for small businesses, like the ability to format multiple PIN numbers to disarm alarms, so business owners know who is in the shop at all times. The system can send owners text messages when alarms have been set or disarmed. It also offers wireless security cameras with motion sensors and intruder alarms that can be placed near registers, safes, and back entrances to provide additional peace of mind.
Tools for Drawing Your Coffee Shop Floor Plan
Once you have an idea for your coffee shop layout, you’ll want to see what the various options look like. Websites like RoomSketcher and SmartDraw allow coffee shop owners to draw different layouts on a virtual space for free. SmartDraw even offers some pre-loaded examples of various businesses to jump-start your designs. RoomSketcher has the option of 2D or 3D layout views, which can be dynamic additions to your coffee shop business plan if you are opening a new shop.
Tips for Maximizing Your Coffee Shop Floor Plan
You can maximize your coffee shop layout with fixtures, furniture, and displays to guide customers through the space, increase functionality, and grow sales. Fixtures are furnishings or built-ins that are used by your shop for service or merchandise display. Furniture are those items like tables, chairs, and sofas that are available for customer use.
For example, if your coffee shop has a claw-foot tub and fills it with bags of coffee beans for sale, that tub is a fixture. If, however, you fill it with pillows and customers use it as a seating option, it becomes furniture.
Fixtures are built-in furnishings that are used for your store operations. Things like countertops, shelving, and overhead lights are fixtures. These are excellent tools that guide customers through your space, increasing functionality, and growing sales. Choose fixtures that are low so your staff can see the whole shop floor from a standing position. This prevents theft as well as allows your team to easily spot areas that need to be cleaned.
Fixtures like low pony walls that separate queuing areas from seating areas are excellent options. Light is also a great way to communicate to your customers; typically the lights in a coffee shop are brightest on walkways, registers, and menu boards. Lights that are less bright can further communicate which areas of your shop are for seating and which are for service.
Furniture like tables, chairs, and banquette and countertop seating can make customers feel welcome to stay in your shop for a while. Think about what your typical customer is looking for, and choose furniture that will appeal to their sensibilities. Multiple types of seating are best. Solitary coffee drinkers or remote workers may prefer a counter seat facing street traffic, while a couple on a casual date will prefer a table.
High sales volume shops will need to purchase commercial grade furniture from a restaurant industry vendor. The wear and tear of hundreds of customers a day can degrade furniture designed for home use at an alarming rate. Commercial grade furnishings will cost more upfront but save you money in the long run.
Coffee shop businesses are a blend of restaurant and retail operations. Coffee beverages are low profit margin items, while retail items like clever mugs, brewing equipment, and coffee bean bags have higher profit margins and much longer shelf lives. Smart coffee shop layouts allow for dynamic displays of these items to encourage purchases.
These displays can be built-in shelving fixtures, shelves that wrap around the front of your espresso counter or hip-level boxes and baskets that separate the queuing area from seating areas. If your shop collaborates with a singular coffee roaster, the roaster may provide displays for its product, as it has a vested interest in making its brand look sharp.
Planning your coffee shop floor plan is a crucial step to opening a coffee shop. The best coffee shop floor plans are based on the shop’s location, size, and target customer. Most independent coffee shop owners plan the placement of fixtures, furnishings, and product displays alone or with the support of their suppliers. They will, however, need to consult a local building to ensure that water lines, electrical lines, and ventilation and sanitation plans adhere to building and health codes.