Over the past 3-4 years, I've worked almost exclusively in coffee shops. From Columbus to Santa Monica, I've tried many. I've spent 4-6 hours per day in them: Mostly, as someone looking to get work done, often just to read or hold a meeting. I don't know if this makes me an expert on anything, but there are things I've noticed about them.
I wanted to create a list of questions and ideas that I'd think about when considering the formation of my very own coffee shop – one that would be thoughtful for one type of customer: me.
1. Seat height and quality.
Most shops tend to go for the low-cost option on this, something semi-aesthetically pleasing but also from IKEA. To me, adjustable height would be a must, even above comfort. This is because the angle at which you’re able to rest your arms, use your laptop, or hold your cup needs to be comfortable. Being that we all come in different shapes and sizes, we should accommodate for that.
Seat comfort can be secondary but is a bonus. I haven't found wood to make much of difference, and, while couches seem like a great option, eventually they "sink" in the middle and become awkward for sharing. If you pick up the chair and it's got no heft, it's apt to be knocked over and that's not a good thing around hot coffee.
2. Line formation/being fair about lines. Just place some markings where you'd like us, or kindly suggest it if it goes astray.
3. Great Wifi, with an easy to find password.
How frequently do you find yourself asking either the barista or a neighbor about the wifi password? I won't even get into wifi here, as to me it's non-negotiable. Either get super-fast wifi that can handle big crowds OR go no wifi at all. I'm ok with a shop that declines, but the in-between shops are a headache.
4. Service to your table.
A lot of times it's hard to judge whether or not, by the time you get your coffee, you'll be able to have a seat or not. You're meeting with someone and you don't know if you should sit down first or wait for the coffee first. I'm not saying this is a total necessity, but the best interactions I have with baristas are when they bring the coffee right to you.
Mick at One Line in Columbus, Ohio, has always gone out of his way to give a sense that each cup is made with love, and he delivers it to your table like he's an excited friend sharing his new recipe with you.
5. Real, Healthy snacks, and protein for the caffeine.
Most shops have the baked goods covered. It's almost always croissants, muffins, bagels, and then only potentially some fruit or oatmeal.
I used to do Croissant Friday.
Dan the Baker's chocolate croissant with an espresso. It was the best. But I’ve since I cut out sugar for the most part, and every coffee is consumed "black."
Now that I'm more knowledgeable about food, and have more distinct dietary preferences, I'm always amazed at how few healthy options shops have. True, coffee pairs amazingly well with a croissant and poorly with, let's say, an apple.
But food is a great upsell for the shop and healthy food tends to be more expensive, and in higher demand for those who seek it.
I bring a snack every day now to the coffee shop – usually, something with protein, as caffeine is balanced in your body a bit through protein (and sugar). I feel bad sometimes eating something that's not from a coffee shop, but I would typically buy something if there were something available that's on my current diet. An Epic Bar (chicken-siracha or bison), Healthy Warrior Chia Bars, or some type of nut/protein bar like Larabars. When in doubt, opt for an apple.
But when you're a few hours into work and your brain is slowing down and caffeine will have the opposite effect of what you need due to hunger, shops that provide healthy snack options have a special place in my heart.
6. Elegant lighting, light blocking.
Lighting is massively important to set the mood of the shop. You can almost control the whole brand experience with light, choosing between fluorescent lights, hanging lights or big windows. Dim light is great if there are lamps on-table, not so much if it's overhead.
I won't get into the aesthetics of a coffee shop now because that's something uniquely important. I will say though, that a great space will drive more customers than great coffee. We're much better at discerning how we feel than what we taste. Actually, how we feel affects what we taste.
Customers would be happy in a shop with a great atmosphere whether it's your beans or the roaster down the roads. Remember experiences are about all the details together. But if I were to spend my money in one area, I’d spend on big windows and an elegant aesthetic. Like or not “Instagram-ability” could be a metric these days to judge a shop by.
Oh, and then there's negative lighting, too. Light negatively covers the screens of computers, as well as light in one person's eyes during a meeting, and light that keeps you from taking beautiful photos to share with others. Drawable blinds are an easy fix here.
One Line Coffee changed my perception of coffee. This was through education, and not pretentious education. I honestly didn't know what a pour-over was, or what the difference between a cappuccino or a Cubano was.
Later, I learned about its origins and sourcing.
Education helped my appreciation, but it also helped me not feel dumb or nervous when I ordered. You want your baristas to educate and invite people to learn more without fear of mistakes or failures. Sometimes when people return their order, it's because they didn't understand the menu, not because they're rude.
What makes a shop out to be a place you love? What's your favorite location?
Sincerely, too much caffeine,
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