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Coffee Shop Ambiance Part II: Lighting, Flooring and More

by Julie Beals on August 29, 2019

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.

1. Let there be light.

Getting the lighting right is important to guests. Just because we all have cell phones doesn’t mean we want to squint over a menu using the flashlight feature, but we also don't want to feel like we're under spotlights.

Be sure the strength of the light suits your concept. Other than natural light (hopefully you’ve got plenty of that), use 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 too, since they're the brightest objects in the room. Make sure they’re well maintained and clean. You don’t want anyone catching an eyeful of a dusty, spider-web adorned lampshade over your table.

2. Don’t go crazy with the flooring. But don't be cheap, either.

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 and hardwoods tend to age much better, 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.

3. Easy on the tunes.

Research shows that diners spend less money at restaurants that don’t play music, making a silent space detrimental to sales. However, they do want to be able to hear the person across the table from them.

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.

4. Warm them up.

No one wants to wear their coat indoors. 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.

5. Don’t forget the outside.

People judge your establishment by how it looks from the outside, so make it a head turner. 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.

Related article: Coffee Shop Ambiance Part I: Furniture

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