Coffee shops are popular, even to non-coffee drinkers looking for somewhere to relax or work. This demand has motivated aspiring entrepreneurs to open their own with varying themes, like murder mysteries and vegan cafes, to make them stand out. We curated a list of unique coffee shop design ideas to help get you started.
Here are 20 inspired coffee shop ideas with creative marketing strategies:
1. Photography Coffee Shop
Photography can be an interesting theme for a coffee shop. As a marketing strategy, you can feature local photographers and provide a small area where they can display some of their recent work. You can also give these photographers an opportunity to showcase and possibly sell some of their work. In return, ask them to add your coffee shop’s name and webpage link to their website.
Using this strategy means you don’t have to invest much money into coffee shop decor, because the photographers will provide it for you; in addition, your customers will be privy to new and exciting art designs every month. This is a good opportunity to boost your social media marketing since professional pictures are easy to share and local photographers usually advertise when they’re having events.
“One pervasive trend in Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia in the last couple of years has been the photography coffee shops. We have already seen a surge in stylish and minimalist cafes in the previous decade, but this new wave of coffee shops takes it even further. These places are more like Some cathedrals rather than actual places to drink coffee. They’re typically bright, sparsely furnished spaces with generous window light and a few carefully selected props for posing. A Swiss cheese plant or a book about specialty coffee usually does the trick.”
—Asser Christensen, Coffee Expert, Instructor & Writer, Coffee Chronicler
2. Gadget-free Cafe
Given that part of a coffee shop business’ charm is the space it provides for people looking for a more relaxed atmosphere for work and study—using laptops and electronic devices—this concept will be a daring attempt. Coffee shops are also a popular hangout for people who would just like to spend time catching up with friends and family over coffee. On the other hand, it’s a unique concept and will make your business easily stand out from its competitors.
For this concept to work, you’ll need a marketing strategy that will convince customers to visit your shop. Create a digital marketing campaign using a well-designed website and strong social media presence. You can also start a loyalty program where you give points for every hour that customers spend in your coffee shop (without using their gadget) toward a premium branded merchandise like a mug or organizer. Finally, make sure your store is equipped with other things to do like providing people with different reading and writing materials.
3. Coffee for a Cause
People love to support businesses that promote a good cause. And there’s no doubt that coffee lovers would be willing to shell out a few extra dollars to enjoy a good cup of coffee when some of the money goes toward helping people in need. You can choose one organization to which you want to contribute or rotate among multiple organizations every few months; intertwine the theme for your chosen cause(s) with your shop design.
Another idea would be to set a target amount for how much you’d like to have collected by the end of the campaign and create a board that monitors the progress of that goal. You can also integrate your campaign into a loyalty program.
4. Babysitting-friendly Coffee Shop
It’s true that coffee is not for kids, but there are many potential customers who provide child care on a regular basis. If you have the space, set aside a section of your coffee shop for a small play area where children can have fun. Make sure the area is located where it’s visible from all areas of your coffee shop, so their caregivers don’t have to worry.
You can then build your marketing campaign around the babysitting theme. Use your website to show that your play area is child proof. And if you include the basics of child care in your employee training, you can use that as part of your marketing strategy too.
5. Mobile Coffee Shop
Imagine being able to move from one city to another and reach more people with your coffee. The beauty of a mobile coffee shop (food truck type concept) is that it’s more scalable compared to traditional brick-and-mortar shops. You can prepare your pastries at home and load the products you plan to sell into your truck. Starting out, the only equipment you need is a microwave, chiller, and coffee making machine.
As with regular food trucks, a mobile cafe can be profitable using the right business strategies. For example, if you need a way to process payments, consider ShopKeep. ShopKeep is a powerful point of sale system with built in payment processing and loyalty features to help keep your customers coming back. It’s also cloud-based, but when the internet is down, some devices can continue to process transactions while offline. Visit ShopKeep for a free quote today.
6. Pet Cafe
A pet-themed cafe is a great way to attract more customers to your shop, and you don’t have to own a ton of dogs and cats to start one. You can encourage customers to bring in their pets to play with other customers’ pets in a designated area of the cafe. This will entertain both pet owners and non-pet owners who like to see animals playing and having a good time.
Also, make sure that your cafe offers pet treats. Pets get hungry too and need attention as much as their owners do. Consider featuring a few customers (and their pets) on your website, and tag them on social media. You should also take time to train your employees on the right way to handle pets that visit your coffee shop.
“Borris and Horton’s has a brilliant business model. Structured as half coffee and vegan snack shop and half dog cafe/play area, the shop offers endless event and marketing opportunities. From comedy events to dog birthday parties, the location is rarely empty. The space is also host to great pet art and art-related events making use of the photo booth and pet costumes available for the inspired. With multiple revenue streams including dog products and doggie baked goods, it caters to multiple customer segments, including coffee-loving puppy spectators and dog-owners who also happen to enjoy matcha.”
—Julia Askin, Marketing Coordinator, Fueled
7. Bookshop Cafe
Many people who love a cup of coffee also love to read, and these days, finding a good book (and the time) to read can be challenging. One great idea you can use to enhance your cafe is to offer a variety of good books to read. Be sure to include a collection of book titles that customers can read easily while enjoying a cup of coffee. And during the design phase of your coffee shop, consider adding places for reading nooks and bookshelves.
There are numerous distinct marketing strategies you can use with the bookshop coffee shop theme. You can start a once-a-month book lover’s feature where you can highlight a loyal customer on your website. You can also do a book hunt and ask customers to donate books you’re looking to include in your collection; in exchange, they can get an extra cup of coffee or free.
8. Greenhouse Coffee Shops
A greenhouse coffee shop (an open space filled with indoor plants and lots of natural lighting) can be a huge attraction when set in the middle of a bustling city. This design is visually relaxing and will attract busy professionals looking for a break from work or travelers taking a break from shopping or sightseeing.
To complement your greenhouse theme, you can design a creative organic menu and feature healthy food alternatives to match the coffee flavors. You should also have a greenhouse-themed website where visitors can learn more about your coffee shop and existing offers for loyal customers.
9. Vegan Coffee Shops
Creating a coffee shop for vegans can seem like a challenge at first, but it’s really all about knowing your coffee. There are alternatives that can be used for vegan coffee versions of people’s favorite beverages, and this is what you should feature in your coffee shop. With enough research, you should be able to find recipes for vegan coffee liqueur, syrup, and dairy to get you started.
When marketing your cafe, your focus will be to highlight what makes your shop unique. Have your website designed to reflect your theme. You should also feature your menu and share information on how you developed vegan versions of popular cafe staples such as Irish coffee, cold brews, and cafe noir.
10. Coworking Space
People love coffee shops because of their relaxed and open feel. Consider designing your space to be a more coworking friendly area and add features to increase loyalty to your brand. This can be as simple as providing more sockets for customers to plug in their laptops and mobile phones, to printing and scanning stations customers can connect to when needed.
Your customers will also be impressed if you upgrade your loyalty program by implementing a modern digital punch card. CandyBar is a digital loyalty card program perfect for businesses like coffee shops that rely on repeat visits to increase their sales. It offers a small business-friendly platform where you can set up rewards and track progress from your end. Customers will only need to give you their phone number, they’ll get a text to confirm, and they’re signed up. Try CandyBar free for 30 days.
11. Virtual Reality Simulator Station
People are always on the lookout for unique experiences like virtual reality, so imagine having a virtual reality (simulator) in your coffee shop. You can reserve a section of your store specifically for customers who are interested in trying the simulator, and everyone else can watch. Make sure to mention this activity on your website and ask customers who try the simulator to tag your social media account when sharing their photos.
“Today, consumers are looking for more than just a chill spot with a barista who remembers their name. They’re also seeking opportunities to opt in to interactive experiences that further engage their senses. To tie into the coffee itself, perhaps a coffee shop would want to install a virtual reality simulator. This could transplant customers around the globe, experiencing where and how the coffee beans are harvested in virtual reality. Choose an on-site experience that allows for private participation without disturbing the vibe of the overall shop.”
—Emily Fritz, Marketing Manager, Diousa
12. Music Venue Cafe
Having live music in coffee shops is nothing new, but you can make it unique by allowing your own customers to perform. Turn your coffee shop into a platform where local aspiring artists can schedule a mini show once a week. They would gladly help you with digital marketing and advertising. You can add a wall dedicated to everyone who performs, and feature them on your website.
Be careful to maintain the vibe of your coffee shop. The performers’ music genre should match your coffee shop’s brand. Screen performers beforehand by asking them to send you a short video of them showcasing their musical talent. You can also use the video as a marketing tool (with their permission of course), so people recognize your cafe as a venue for aspiring musicians with potential.
13. Murder Mystery Theme
You can open a coffee shop that’s specifically for customers who love murder mystery. Design your cafe so that it’s interactive and full of ideas, like random riddle solving where people can practice their investigative skills. Think of creative names for your menu and occasional events that your target customers will love. You should also design a loyalty program that incorporates the murder mystery idea.
Marketing will be easy because a murder-mystery cafe is a unique concept. Start a website that’s connected to your social media account. You can also create a hashtag that your customers can use when sharing photos of your cafe and offer a free cup of coffee as an incentive.
14. Parisian-themed Cafe
Not everyone can go to Paris, so why not create this unique vibe with a Parisian themed cafe? Make sure to commit and offer an immersive experience to your customers that won’t disappoint. From your choice of French roast like Une noisette (French equivalent of a macchiato) and Un serré (similar to the strong Italian ristretto) and pastries, to the design and color theme of the cafe, you’ll want your customers to leave feeling that their visit was worth the trip.
One good tip for cafe owners who want to give their customers a taste of Paris is to start small. You don’t have to over decorate or have a large lineup in your menu, but be sure to stay as authentic as possible with what you have. Your website, social media, and loyalty program ideas should also match your theme.
15. Pastry-tasting Cafe
If you want to use your baking skills to create a unique cafe theme, consider featuring pastries from around the world every month. This will keep your marketing campaign fresh, and your customers will always have a new menu item to try. All you need to do is research, and create a year-round schedule of the pastries you want to offer. This will ensure you have enough time to prepare, from sourcing your ingredients to marketing your products.
Make sure you always update your website to keep up with each month’s pastry. Dreamhost is a very low-cost web hosting service that’s user-friendly, so it’s easy to update your website. It also provides users with unlimited bandwidth, a domain name, and a one-click web apps installer to help launch your website in no time for as little as $4.95 a month. Visit Dreamhost today, and take advantage of their discounts.
16. Coffee Shop Poetry Night
You can schedule a night on which customers can read their favorite poems to other patrons. For people who are not as bold, you can allow anonymous submissions. If you have the space, you can also post some customers’ poems on a board inside the cafe. Encourage them by providing a paper and pen they can use to express how they feel in a poem. You can also choose to feature these writers on your website for others to admire.
“Why do people go to coffee shops? A morning routine, a pick me-up, a business meeting or a meeting with your ex, for a chat you know you shouldn’t be having, but you go anyway. The occasion dictates the mood, but the one constant is coffee. We believe the coffee shop that hasn’t been launched yet is the one that connects people’s mood to the coffee shop environment. With emotion-based research that understands people’s needs during these specific occasions and moods, messaging that can tap into these moods and relate to the consumer will drive immediate excitement.”
—Maria Vorovich, Co-Founder, Goodques
17. Cafe Board Games and Word Games
One way to keep customers coming back to your coffee shop is to keep them entertained with classic board games and word games. Not only does this provide a unique activity to people who want somewhere to unwind, it will also give your brand identity that will stand out to the local crowd. Make sure you provide a wide variety of games like Chess, Scrabble, or Monopoly and have more than one of each kind.
One great marketing idea for this is to ask customers to donate their old, but still useful board games in exchange for a cup of coffee. You can even feature a game once a month and have a wall with a list of rankings for your customers to view.
18. Retro Cafe
Customers who want to unwind look for a change of pace and ambiance after a long hard day. Coffee shops that offer a retro theme can do both. Keep it classic; customers come in with a set of expectations when they think of retro, so make sure your design is recognizable. Commit to the style by adding small things that will make the experience authentic.
For example, instead of just having classic ’60s music playing from your phone, add a traditional jukebox to give that distinct sound. Coffee shops are all about the ambiance so your design should be a mixture of large and small elements that customers will enjoy.
19. Cafe for Professional Consultants
Coffee shops are already a popular venue for professionals who are looking for a more relaxed ambiance to engage their potential clients. As a coffee shop owner, you can create partnerships with these professionals by either having your brand be identified as a venue for a particular group of professional consultants, or feature experts in different industries on a regular basis. Offer your cafe as a networking space and dedicate a wall for your customers who excel in their field.
“There’s a town near Albany where you’ll find a unique coffee shop called Eden Café. Eden was started three years ago by a financial adviser who wanted to provide financial advice in a new way—over a cup of coffee. Patrons can come for lunch or breakfast and discuss their financial futures—this is optional. The café also has entertainment several nights a week. The formula is working as both the financial advisory and café business are percolating—pun intended!”
—Joseph Finora, Founder, Joseph Finora & Associates
20. Eco-friendly Cafe
There are a number of ways to make your cafe eco-friendly and most of the time, these small efforts are inexpensive and can even save you money. Do your research and create a list of things that you can apply to your coffee shop. Using paper cups, discouraging the use of plastic straws and utensils, and even investing in biodegradable stirrers can impress your customers.
Aside from mentioning your cafe’s eco-friendly practices on its website, you should also incorporate the concept in the coffee shop’s other marketing efforts. Brainstorm ideas for loyalty programs that reward points to customers who participate in your cafe’s decision to go green, such as in your recycling campaign. You can also reward them for participating in local community activities on Earth Day.
For most people, coffee is a prerequisite for a productive day, so it’s no surprise to find a growing number of coffee shops surfacing. With competition increasing, your ability to create fresh ideas will help you stand out from the rest. Keep our list of coffee shop design and marketing ideas in mind to inspire your next venture.
Do you have more unique coffee shop ideas worth sharing? Let us know in the comments.