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The floor plan of your cafe isn’t just about creating a cozy space. It should be accessible and intuitive to navigate for all guests. Not only that - many states require you to submit blueprints for building permits before designing your cafe. This makes a restaurant floor plan a necessity for your business.
To ensure you create a desirable experience for your guest and employees (as well as meet all legal requirements for your cafe!) you’ll need to design a smart cafe floor plan. This guide will help you do just that, setting up your cafe for long-term success.
What is a Cafe Floor Plan?
A cafe floor plan is a map of the physical space of the whole cafe. Every single inch of space counts in your floor plan, both indoor and outdoor. That’s because - ultimately - the floor plan will let you visualize how all the spaces of your cafe will fit together.
Floor plans require a little bit of creativity and research – the floor plan must balance your vision for the cafe with the accessibility of the space. How your guests and servers will navigate your cafe is just as important as the ambiance and experience.
A cafe floor plan should include:
- The coffee bar
- Prep areas
- The kitchen
- The ordering queue
- Waiting areas
- Dining and seating areas
- Staff areas, offices, and break rooms
- Your cafe’s restaurant POS system and cashier stations
- Dish area(s)
- Emergency Exits
- Accurate measurements of the space
Options for Creating a Cafe Floor Plan
There are two options when it comes to starting the design process of your cafe - you can do it yourself or hire someone.
When it comes to doing it yourself, don’t stress about not being an architect, artist, or anyone with quality drawing skills. The good news is that there is software that makes designing your cafe’s floor plan simple. SmartDraw, ConceptDraw, or CadPro are all reliable software that can create a custom blueprint for your cafe.
You can also hire someone to create your floor plan. An interior design studio can help bring your vision to life. The right designer will be able to develop a focused aesthetic for your space, collaborating with you on honing the guest’s experience.
No matter which option you choose, make sure that you go into the design process with an idea of how you want your cafe to function. Where will the kitchen be? The dining area? Where will guests enter and place orders? As you answer these questions, double-check that your proposed layout supports all kinds of guests to successfully navigate your space.
Accessibility Requirements for Cafe Floor Plans
States and municipalities have building codes that public buildings must adhere to. Complying with building codes guarantees that your cafe is accessible to all guests. But, as architect Justin Alpert says, adhering to building codes is the bare minimum – think about how you might design a space that works for everyone, not just “the average customer.”
When designing your floor plan, take inspiration from the humans that will use the space. Employing the principles of human-centered design not only results in beautiful, usable cafe spaces but can also lead to more customer engagement. As you start designing, answer this question – how can you engage all of your community with the design of your cafe?
The answer will all depend on you, your community, and your vision of your dream cafe!
How to Create a Cafe Blueprint and Floor Plan
It’s important to learn about creating a blueprint and floor plan for your cafe, whether you’re working with a designer or doing it yourself. This guide will help you get an idea of how to start the design process, which all begins with using floor plan design software to create a map of each of the spaces in your cafe using the best practices.
Floor Plan Design Best Practices:
- Design accessible spaces with your customers in mind. Consider both your guests’ and employees' needs as well as local building codes, when designing the floor plans for all of your cafe’s spaces.
- Include ample space for your guests while they wait in line to order or, if your cafe has table service, while they wait for a table.
- Create an intuitive flow of service so that customers are not confused by how your cafe functions.
- Factor in where your employees will be working. This includes identifying where POS systems will exist to efficiently conduct transactions and communicate with the kitchen.
- Consider how the floor plan works for the theme and ambiance of your cafe.
Coffee Bar Floor Plan
We know firsthand the pain of working in a poorly planned cafe – it slows down the flow of every employee, especially the barista. If you hired a great barista that you trust, ask them to help you design your coffee bar. Or, consult the head barista at a successful local coffee shop.
Your menu and your baristas’ workflow can inform your layout. Think about what stations are near each other, how many baristas will be working on a shift, and the service capacity of your cafe.
Also, consider the space where your guests or servers interact with baristas. How will your cafe let customers know where to go? An intuitive floor plan will guide guests through the steps of service so that they feel calm and comfortable in your cafe space.
Pro tip: Be sure that a pickup counter and condiment station are easily accessible. This will make everyone’s lives easier, especially during the morning rush.
Cafe Kitchen Floor Plan
Whether your cafe is counter-service only or a cozy full-service situation, the kitchen space is a primary consideration in your floor plan. If you have limited space, think wisely about how you can optimize your space for maximum production while lending enough room for your employees to prep, cook, and bake.
Time, quality, and, eventually, profits are sacrificed when there’s not enough space for employees to do their jobs efficiently. So, make the most of your cafe’s kitchen space by focusing on the production capacity of your menu and your staff. And, remember to leave room for all the necessary equipment to produce your menu.
Staff Area Floor Plan
Staff areas (such as offices and break rooms) should always be included in your floor plans. Be sure to set aside back-of-house space for your managers to complete administrative tasks and for all of your staff to take breaks. Designating an area for staff will keep your cafe organized, providing a communal place to post schedules and announcements.
The Dining Room Floor Plan
The dining room is arguably the most important blueprint you’ll make. It’s the one that will drive the bulk of the guest experience. Your dining room floor plan needs to match the aesthetic of your cafe.
If you’re going for a simple coffee shop, then a sleek, open floor plan may achieve your goals. But, if you’re looking to create that quintessentially cozy cafe, this model may not work. You may want something more intimate. The floor plan choice all depends on the cafe you’re aiming for.
One thing to consider also is the local cafe culture. What expectations will your community have? How will your cafe floor plan pleasantly surprise local customers? These questions can help you develop a smart floor plan that supports your cafe’s success.
How Much Seating Should a Cafe Have?
To understand your seating plan, consider the industry standard for space. According to Total Food Service, it’s a 60/40 model – 60% of the space is used for guests (and seating) and 40% is used for prep, the coffee bar, and the kitchen.
Another critical step is calculating the maximum occupancy of your space depending on local building codes. These will vary by cafe type and location, but we suggest the following capacity per guest in these types of restaurants (local COVID guidelines may further restrict these calculations:)
- Full-Service Restaurant Dining: 12-15 square feet
- Counter Service: 18-20 square feet
- Fast Food: 11-14 square feet
Let’s give an example using the suggested capacity above. A 3200 square foot cafe space would have 1,920 square feet of space for guests and the capacity for a counter service cafe would be 106 customers. Each guest would have approximately 18 square feet of space.
Offering guests more space is usually a good idea. Spacing tables further apart and creating wide lanes for traffic is a great way to make your cafe accessible to people with disabilities. Plus, a study by Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration found that guests are more generous with their spending if they have more personal space.
Entrance Floor Plan
The entrance to your cafe is where your guests will have their first impression of your cafe. This means it’s crucial that your entrance space invites guests in and provides them with crucial information about your cafe.
In a full-service cafe, be sure to incorporate enough space for guests to wait to be seated. For counter-service, prioritize the pathway for guests to order. You can place the ordering counter near the entrance or guide your customers there with signs or creative architectural elements.
Of course, these elements do rely on your location and style of service. In an area with lots of foot traffic (like a mall or shopping center), you might not need as much waiting area as you would if you were a stand-alone cafe.
Outdoor Seating Floor Plan
If you have the luxury of outdoor space, maximize it. A nice patio can attract a different niche of customers to your cafe and drive additional sales and profits. On the other hand, outdoor space that is out of the way or hard to find can slow service. This could lead to both guests and employees not wanting to use the additional space. To avoid this, design a floor plan that makes the space easy to access for guests and servers.
Restrooms Floor Plan
Believe it or not, restrooms are a deciding factor in many people’s choice of cafes and restaurants, according to a survey by Zogby International. Designing restrooms that are big enough for all guests and easy to find from dining areas will create an attractive edge to your cafe. Avoid requiring guests to move through staff areas to reach the restroom.
Cashier and POS Station Floor Plan
The POS is the center of your cafe – it’s how your cashiers or server communicate with cooks and baristas, keeping track of all of your cafe’s operations.
In a counter-service cafe, you’ll likely have one POS station where customers place orders with a cashier. In a full-service cafe, POS stations should exist where your servers can best access them. You may want to invest in handheld POS devices that your servers can use tableside. They’ll appreciate the reduced legwork!
Emergency Exits Floor Plan
Cafes must have a fire and emergency floor plan. Design software can help you adequately map out emergency exit routes. Once your floor plan is completed, be sure to communicate the routes to your staff and clearly mark external exits for customers.
Executing your Cafe’s Floor Plan
Once you craft your cafe’s detailed blueprints and floor plans, it's time to start turning your plans into a reality. Plumbers, architects, electricians, designers, artists, and your staff can all assist you in building the cafe of your dreams.
Consulting an interior designer can help you to achieve the specific ambiance and experience you want for your customers. They can guide you through painting, decorating, and purchasing furniture that’s functional for your space and suits your cafe’s aesthetic.
Installing light fixtures in a commercial space should be done by an electrician to be sure it’s up to code – the same goes for plumbing and any structural changes you want to make your cafe’s space. Trade professionals can make sure your cafe is up to code and safe for operation.
It’ll also be important to work with city, county, and state officials for all the proper permits for building and blueprints. If possible, maintain good working relationships with the employees in the permit office – they’ll be sure that your blueprints and any changes get approved on time.
This all may seem like a lot of work to do. But, your dream cafe is worth it. So, don’t forget to have fun and be creative! Designing and executing the plans you carefully made for your cafe is exciting – pour all of your passion for your cafe into the design process and watch how your customers will appreciate it every time they visit your cafe.
Still figuring out what kind of cafe you wish to open? Don’t miss our latest post on 25 Unique Cafe Ideas to Inspire You. It will help get your creative ideas flowing and your cafe doors open!