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How to Run a Successful Student Coffee Shop

The recent hot trend in culinary establishments seems to be student cafes. These are cafes on or near college campuses, that cater to students and are often run by students as well. on This is an inventive way for students to try out their business skills and build some experience in the food service and management industry.The student coffee shops are usually mobile and/or temporary, which is why a student coffee shop design is especially important. Many of these have a flexible layout and are conveniently located on on-campus sites like lecture hall basements and student advisory centers.

So whether you need to survive those hellish finals week, or need a shot of caffeine to pull yourself together after a night of last-minute cramming, the student coffee shop on campus is the perfect place to go!

Coffee shops have always been the design darlings of the contemporary generation. They’re the perfect place to hang out in a casual setting and meet your friends or classmates for a regular study date and are definitely a nice way to generate some revenue from a business point of view. The importance of student cafes is crucial – it offers hands-on management, finance administration and a taste of professional life to students.

Furthermore, these student coffee shops are hotbeds for innovative trends, ideas, and products. Many student teams even come up with inventive policies to give the best user experience to their customers. Student coffee shop designs always play a huge role in attracting customers and keeping them hooked. The Cobb Coffee Shop in Chicago is a great example of a student cafe and how the designed ambiance truly matters to maintain that addictive vibe for customers. This cafe offers its users a unique vintage appeal with vinyl records and cheap breakfasts. It’s known as the perfect place to dash out for a quick cup of coffee or kill some time on campus.

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Things to consider in a unique student coffee shop design

1. Customer Service

No one likes to wait on service, and everyone likes to experience the best graphics. Sometimes, customers don’t even realize how the customer service becomes an integral part of a student coffee shop design. Here are a few things you should look out for in your shop with respect to customer service:

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    a. Proper Employee Training

Proper planning and layout matter a lot when it comes to training employees. If the spaces are small and cramped, the employees will find it hard to fully embrace their duties. This can lead to accidents of all kind – especially in the kitchen. Moreover, if the service is bad, it reflects poorly on the whole establishment, and word of mouth can be just as huge a disadvantage as it is an advantage. So always make sure that you plan adequate spaces for the baristas and waiters, and enough time for the proper training of employees.

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    b. Affordability

If a student-run coffee shop is successful enough, then sure, they can splurge a little on expensive updates. But most of the time, such ventures are usually start-ups. As a budding business that has yet to charm its customer base, it is important that the overall interior design be carried out in a cheap and affordable way. Therefore, a student coffee shop design has to be budget-friendly and economical. It has to be affordable enough for the participating students to make an initial investment. If nothing else, even a container café with proper placement and flexibility can be more than enough to get the business off the ground.

2. Exterior Design

The exterior always matters whether it is a curb-side retail outlet or a small student coffee shop. What makes you stop on the street and take a second look at a storefront? It can be an attractive façade, an avant-garde display or even a crazy signboard. But the one thing that’s common between them all is the curb appeal, or attractiveness of the exterior, as viewed from the street.

All of these factors are features of the main elevation. And all of them offer some manner of visual contribution to the design. If something makes you take a second glance, then the designer has obviously done something right. This is especially relevant for a student coffee shop design.

You always need a hook to bring in your customers – it can be an unconventional exterior, an attractive display or an aesthetically pleasing front. All of these are good choices for a student-run coffee shop. Here are some extra points you can think about:

  •  Are you going for outdoor sitting?
  •  Do the local authorities approve the use of barriers and umbrellas in the public space?
  •  Is the average weather good for outdoor accommodation?
  •  What’s your target demographic and what are they most attracted to?
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3. Interior Design

Student coffee shops don’t need to be designed as upscale cafes, but they should have that warm, appealing charm along with efficient ergonomics. These coffee shops are different from regular cafes because of their convenient locations on campus, the student-friendly environment and a casual appeal that always attracts those bleary-eyed students from all around campus. Here are some key points to follow in order to come up with a successful student coffee shop design:

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    a. Stimulating Environment

Kafein is a student-run coffee shop in Northwestern University that offers its guests activities like open-mic participation and Trivial Pursuit. You have to understand that the coffee culture for college kids – who are the target market – is different from regular cafes that cater to the general public. So the introduction of distinct activities provides a stimulating environment that never fails to attract the college-age crowd.

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The Kiva Han coffee shop located at the University of Pittsburgh is another good example of such activity based interior designing. Their major attraction includes adding to the graffiti and participating in the public forum of Pittsburgh.

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And lastly, the Harper Café in Chicago is another student-run coffee shop that offers a unique concept. It is located on the 3rd floor of the Harper Memorial Library and is the perfect place to schedule a study date with your buddies. Its interior design features beautiful study spaces that always attract the graduate and undergraduate crowds to its halls.

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    b. Give Way To Creative Lighting

No student coffee shop design is ever complete without creative lighting. You have to understand that the target audience here does not appreciate frou-frou decorations. They don’t have delicate sensibilities. Your crowd is going to range from jocks to nerds to hipsters and everything in between. So the lighting has to be universally appreciated. Some Nescafe shops in university campuses use repurposed coffee bottles and cups of their own brand to make a lasting impression on the users. Ambient LEDs in warm temperatures are also a great way to make for a comfortably cozy ambiance.

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    c. Get Homey With ‘Shabby Chic’

While ‘comfort’ and ‘affordability’ are the key concepts, you also have to do a layover with the overall theme. Try not to be too helter-skelter; meaning don’t combine too many different styles. The Shabby Chic aesthetic is culture-relevant with student coffee shop designs. It’s a style that can be easily carried out using local sources. The artfully distressed look can even use some existing elements in the shop vicinity. However, you’re welcome to use other styles as well. Some recommended styles are as follows:


The timeworn, warm ambiance of the rustic style is universally welcoming.

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– Industrial:

The raw sophistication of this style is particularly chic and appealing.

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– Casual Contemporary:

The soft hues and warm, natural ambiance is exceptionally inviting.

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    d. An All-Around Ergonomic Layout

Whether you’re a customer standing in line or a barista working the espresso machine, an efficient, ergonomic layout will benefit all. A student coffee shop design is usually pretty crowded, so the layout should be spacious enough to accommodate the service line, the back-stage crew as well as the seated crowd. This kind of an interior design is a combination of two very different genres; workspace and retail. Therefore, understanding the anthropometry, posture and motion of the crowd is definitely a crucial part of designing the best layout.

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4. Branding

Branding is what defines the overall outlook of your student coffee shop design. It’s basically an extension of your message to the customer. People firmly believe that they get what they see. This is why the branding has to be especially effective in order to appeal to the customers. Here’s how you can do that:

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    a. Effective Marketing and Branding

A student coffee shop always needs to invest in proper marketing strategies in order to build a loyal customer base. These strategies are also important for maximizing the sales of high margin products such as espresso drinks. You can use catchy slogans, attractive graphics, and quality delivery to vouch for your coffee shop. These graphics should also be incorporated in the student coffee shop design to convey proper branding aesthetics. The combined effect of marketing and branding is a great way to hook yourself to a loyal customer base.

    b. Make Yourself Standout

What makes your coffee shop so different from the five others in the surrounding neighborhood? Why should customers walk an extra mile to experience your coffee shop? The thing about student coffee shops is that they can afford to get a little inventive with their settings and offerings. Just look at Princeton’s Small World Café, popular for its open-air sitting arrangement and great mango lassi. Try to have at least one special attraction or serving in order to make a lasting and addicting impression on your customers.

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    c. A Minimalistic Menu

As mentioned before, student coffee shops that are just starting up should definitely be affordable. A minimalistic menu means that you won’t have to invest in extra equipment. Start with the basics, and as the revenue increases, you can start adding to the menu. Having a maximized menu from the very start will entail a more expensive equipment and infrastructure along with an extensive design and construction budget. Therefore, student coffee shops should definitely start with a small, refined menu.

A student coffee shop design is versatile and calls for a lot of consideration on various aspects. We hope this article helps you get a clearer view of what you need to do and how you should undertake it.

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