Will Hall, Graphic Designer, Matthew Algie

Why it is important to celebrate being different, especially when it comes to the look and feel of your café.

It seems to me that more and more cafés are adhering to common threads of interior design. That's not to say that sipping your favourite bean-based beverage surrounded by reclaimed wood, bare brick and rusting metal is wrong, but I'm willing to bet that most patrons can get a similar ambience from their cob-webby garden shed. An industrial style is also ok, with all its bare pipes, breeze blocks and diamond plate, but not everyone would like to kick-back and relax with a good book, dainty shortbread and a macchiato in what can sometimes feel like their local mechanics.

So, are we in danger of drowning in a sea of dark grey slate, mismatched furniture and warm pendant lights? How can we put our own twist on a common theme? Is there a secret ingredient that can make your coffee shop, shack or kiosk stand out from the coffee crowd? There might just be.


Embrace your individuality. It is what sets us apart from everyone else in everyday life, it's what makes us all different.

Don't feel as though you need to religiously follow today's trends, but instead set some yourself. Shake things up and don't be scared to push the boat out when it comes to your café's overall look and vibe.


How do we inject a little bit of ourselves into our café? We are not just inviting someone into our business, but into our extended homes, with staff becoming our second family and customers our friends.

Welcome regulars and extend a homely and inviting atmosphere with pictures and décor that promote the story and theme of your shop. Turn your coffee house into a coffee home.

Our friends at Kaya are a great example of this. They've drawn on their South African heritage to create an environment that feels welcoming and has a real community spirit. It’s no coincidence, that Kaya means ‘place to gather’ in Zulu.


Use the elements of your building, its character and its history to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to lean into your strengths, play to your audience or convert a urinal into a table...

Yes you read that correctly. If you ever wanted a lesson in making the most of one's surroundings, then see the Attendant's Fitzrovia café in London. Here they have leant heavily on the character of the building, where the original Doulton & Co porcelain urinals make for a one-of-a-kind table & stool arrangement.

It's quirky, eye-catching, memorable and a prime example of how to stand out from the crowd. You may not have ornate Victorian lavatories you can repurpose, but I'm willing to bet that your building also has its own unique story to tell.

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Most coffee shops survive on the usual offering of 6 or 7 beverages… and good luck to them, but your menu is what brings customers in though the door. Promoting an ever evolving banquet of delicious, Instagram-worthy seasonal specials keeps things interesting and customers coming back for more. They practically sell themselves. It is the ideal opportunity to show off your creative skills.

If you looking for some inspiration on this front then you can check out the latest edition of our seasonal drinks magazine - Stir it up.


What can you find to intrigue and excite your customers. Perhaps it will be reclaimed seating pews from a local church or upcycled architecture that will give your coffee shop a unique sense of place.

But for me, if you're really looking to grab people's attention, well the devil is in the detail.

You don't need to overcomplicate things. Never underestimate the marketing power of a selfie with your latest well practiced latte art or showing off your good humour with a witty chalkboard masterpiece. It's often the case that the little things can make all the difference when trying to stand out from the crowd.


And lastly, and (I think) most importantly, let your customers know, that you know your stuff, Don’t be afraid to flex a little of your barista muscle. Know the origin of your coffee, the stories of the people that produce it and what makes it special.

Customers want to know where their money is going, and being able to provide them with as much background information as possible will help in bringing them back time after time.

Flaunt your drink making skills and don't be scared to impart your knowledge to your inquisitive coffee lovers.

Also, a particular bug bear of mine, know how to spell your drinks. There isn’t, no matter how hard you look for it, an X in espresso! This is one area where it doesn't help to be different from the rest.

If a coffee shop won’t go to the trouble of finding out this information for themselves, or worse even check the spelling of the drinks being offered, would they check that the beans were stored correctly or that the machine was cleaned regularly, would they care whether they re-steamed milk or wiped their wand after use. It's something to think about (grammatical rant over).

In conclusion it’s not what you are doing, but how you are doing it, lots have people may have done similar things, but don’t be afraid of trying something new.

Embrace these tips and make being different work for you.

Will Hall

Graphic Designer at Matthew Algie

Will has been with Matthew Algie for over 14 years and boasts 22 years of design industry experience. A professional level qualified barista, he is passionate about all things coffee and fully embraces its vibrant culture.

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