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Café Bars: The Future of Coffee Shop Design
| 21 Mar

Chains and independents are experimenting with alcohol and coffee leading to a new wave of flexible and casual café bars. Is this the future of coffee shop design and what does this mean for independents?

Coffee and alcohol have enjoyed joyous partnerships over the years but merely as beverages served at restaurants or bars. Despite this, independents such as ‘GRIND’ and coffee giants – Starbucks and Costa – have taken the concept further, experimenting with a hybrid of coffee shop and craft beer bar outlets.

Serving alcohol alongside coffee allows both independents and chains to capitalise on daytime and evening trade with the possibility of increasing sales when coffee sales are slow. Craft beer is among some of the most popular alcoholic beverages offering vast flavour profiles and quality. Both craft beer and coffee work well together as they are small, light and easy to store. However, there is a big difference in labour costs and profit margins between the two.

Gross profit margins are typically lower on alcohol when compared to coffee, but spending is significantly higher on alcohol at £11 per drink. The lower gross profit margin on alcohol is due to the difference in labour costs as, theoretically, it takes staff longer to produce a quality espresso drink using technical machinery compared to the simple process of opening and pouring alcohol into a glass.

As enticing as it sounds to introduce alcohol to your list of coffee shop offerings, there are also a few concerns that brands should be aware of.

Brands run the risk of brand confusion and could possibly turn away their existing customers, especially the more health-conscious individual, should they decide to offer alcohol. Establishments will also need to expand on their food offering, serving more than just bakery or patisserie. When this is all added together, staffing and labour costs greatly increase and the whole operation becomes a lot more complex.

At present, the concept of casual café bars are only being toyed with by bigger chains although it appears that smaller independent chains have been more successful. Jeffrey Young, Allegra Group’s chief executive, believes the reason behind micro-chains success is due to their very niche focus and creativity levels to not just add wine and beer but to take the whole concept to the next level.

By Dawood Pathan

Thinking of opening a coffee shop? Let’s discuss your coffeeshop branding and interior design at or call 020 7060 3121