"The key is to stay nimble and adapt to the needs of coffee consumers," says Cameron Fry, Creative Director and Owner of Liqui Group. We ask Cameron how coffee shops have been impacted by the pandemic and how they have adapted from a design standpoint.
How has the industry been impacted by COVID-19?
The industry has been massively impacted from multiple angles. There is no denying that the lockdown was a real gut punch for businesses. Before COVID the industry was already coping with an extremely competitive environment with growing competition and rising property and staff costs.
Now that coffee shops are opening their doors, they're having to face fresh challenges. Lower footfall is having a large impact on turnover, especially for those in urban areas, which is largely down to home working. On top of this, coffee shop owners and organisations are having to grapple with their public health obligations and commercial needs.
How have businesses adapted during these unprecedented times?
We’ve seen coffee shops adapting by offering takeaway and setting up outdoor seating, expanding their business, through selling coffee online, for example. We’ve also seen cafés and roasters upping their investment to build their brand and online presence, something we have been advocating for many years!
Businesses are adapting and we’re going to see further changes in response to COVID over the next few years, although we would argue some of these changes would have happened anyway — COVID may just be putting them on the fast track.
What is the future of coffee shop design?
Firstly the coffee and wider hospitality industry will survive. All the research we’ve done is in support of this. People are going to return to the streets and footfall will rise. There’s a simple truth — people want to go out, have nice experiences and affordable luxuries. Coffee shops are the perfect place for this. Although we’re entering a recession, it’s worth remembering that coffee shops during the last recession prospered because of this.
Now when it comes to the prophecies we’re hearing about people working from home forever more — it’s exaggerated. As well as being ingrained within the coffee and hospitality sector, we work extensively in the office design industry. Office workers will return. We’re working with clients at the moment preparing for this. That is not to say that homeworking won’t be more of a thing. To a certain extent it will be, but not nearly to the same level some people are suggesting. The key is to stay nimble and adapt to the needs of coffee consumers.
How can businesses adapt their coffee shop and restaurant design in the face of COVID?
Coffee shops, roasters, restaurateurs and any organisations engaged within the hospitality sector need to truly focus wholeheartedly on design, and to be clear, we’re not just talking about the design of an interior here, although this is important. We’re talking about the design of a business and everything associated with it.
To survive and thrive there has to be an all encompassing focus on the development of the business. This extends to the design of customer experiences, affecting the interior and customer engagement. The design of a brand. One that actively reaches out to customers and forms emotional bonds. The design of operational aspects of the business, focussing on service, the quality of the products and the way it is served. This is so important because it’s never been a more competitive and rocky environment to be in the hospitality and coffee industry.
It seems that COVID has well and truly put an end to the days of individuals and companies opening ‘just another coffee shop’ that only focus on the peripheries of operating a hospitality business. The outlook is challenging, but as is the case in these situations, there’s always opportunity. Organisations and individuals who understand this will grow and evolve.
Because of this, when looking at the future of coffee shops, restaurant and hospitality design in general, we’ll see those who hone and develop the whole business, experience, and brand will do well and thrive. We’re going to see a more competent and higher caliber of businesses and brands within the coffee and wider hospitality sector.
How can design be used as they key to success?
At Liqui® we focus on the development of brands and interiors, but it’s important to us to help our clients with the design of their business as well. Focussing on just interior and paying little to no attention to the brand and the design of the business is like crafting the perfect engine for a boat filled with holes. You might get some distance into your voyage, but eventually you’ll sink. If however we do look at specifically the design of interiors and how they'll change — partially as a result of COVID, but also because of the natural progression of the industry, we’re going to continue to see interiors that put experience at the center of their approach.
We’ll see that those who are operating a successful expanding business will have interiors designed to create an experience, engaging with customers in a way that reflects their brand. It will communicate their character, ethos and story through nuanced customer interaction, experience and engagement. There will be an enhanced focus on original escapism concepts. People will progressively look for experiences that take them beyond the stresses of life. We all want little luxuries. Inhabiting somewhere special that relaxes, or engages us is an important human desire that should not be ignored.
Can you dive deeper into the importance of offering an experience to customers?
This experiential design approach feeds into the increased need to build a brand that customers can engage with. Having photogenic interiors allowing for content creation and appealing to a social media savvy customer base is incredibly important.
The design of forward-thinking coffee shop interiors have been progressively moving towards this approach. Coffee shops went through a phase of all looking alike. This is not helpful in a highly competitive market. It’s why we’ve been seeing coffee shops actively developing ways to stand out and remain attractive to their audience and community.
There will be business and opportunities created out of this situation and we ‘re really looking forward to working with those progressive thinking individuals and organisations.
Cameron Fry will be taking part in a panel interview at The Global Coffee Festival entitled Time, Space and Design in Hospitality. Register for your FREE ticket today.