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7 Pillars to Cafe Success

The 7 pillars to cafe success are 7 important business factors we discuss with all our clients from the outset of any project. Which are especially important given how competitive the hospitality industry is with many cafes, bars and restaurants opening and closing so regularly.

Our hospitality design clients invest a lot of money to make their dream hospitality business a success and to assist our clients on their business journey I always start any hospitality design project by talking to my clients about their business, their ‘why’, I want to tap into their purpose through design.

One of the reasons why I decided to specialise in hospitality design is because I found it so interesting that you could have two cafes on the same street, sometimes next door to each, and one is full, busy and has a great vibe and the other is dead quiet, no customers, no vibe.

Why was this?  Was it the food, price, service, design or a combination of all these factors;

  1. Food,
  2. Price,
  3. Service/Experience,
  4. Location,
  5. Marketing,
  6. Brand/Visual Identity,
  7. Interior Design

Let’s look at these more closely…


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The love of food is universal.  It represents so many things to different people; from love, to memories of family or travel experiences.  A deeply felt taste sensation stays with you for a long time, a good food experience unlocks all our senses, taste, sound, smell, sight; so, what is it about the food you’re going to serve in your food business, that will be memorable, that people talk about?

Memorable food doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive, or look pretty but it does need to taste good to have an impact on all our senses.

Therefore, what your menu looks like, how it reads, how it’s presented, and having a point of difference, really matters from an operational, financial, and experiential perspective. 

You want people to leave your hospitality business feeling good and food is one piece of the puzzle.


Like any business you need to make money, the cost of food (and other expenses) and what you charge customers is another critical pillar to a successful hospitality business.  Knowing how much you need each customer to spend per visit and pricing your food accordingly not only ensures your success but ensures your customers leave your business feeling good rather than feeling ripped off.

Factors that influence price include; location, your customer’s demographic profile, the type of food you serve and quantity, as well as presentation.

But it’s also important to consider cross selling and upselling.  I think there is a missed opportunity for wait staff to upsell to customers by making recommendations, and by checking in with customers more often. 

How many times have you been to a café and wanted another coffee but couldn’t get the waiter’s attention or the waiter just didn’t check in with you?

Another opportunity to cross sell is through retail products that make sense to your business and further tell your story.  For example, if you have a burger café and make a special sauce, try selling that sauce for people to use at home, think of it as a souvenir a way for people to cherish their memorable experience.

Some cafés have recipe books, some sell t-shirts or keep cups.  The range of merchandise available is limitless but the product has to be relevant to your story or vision.

Getting the balance right between charging the right price for your menu that is commensurate with your customers disposable income and ensuring your viability, as well as how you can upsell and cross sell forms part of your business strategy and budgetary planning from the very beginning.


Interior Designer Melbourne

Sometimes I think that hospitality business owners forget what hospitality means.

The Oxford Dictionary says ‘hospitable: friendly and welcoming to visitors or guests.’

Of all the pillars, which are all important, great service/experience, that is being hospitable needs to be at the heart and soul of your hospitality business.

Every single touch point from the customer’s first interaction with your business online whether to make a booking or check your menu has to be warm and welcoming.  As soon as they enter your premises customers need to be greeted with a warm and welcoming vibe.  They need to be shown to their seat, offered water, without question, simply looked after like they matter because your customers do matter.

The level of service a customer experiences matters to you, your business, your profit margin and your reputation.

Think beyond 5 star online reviews, although that is important, think of the personal connection that ensures your customers leave your establishment feeling good.

I am sure we’ve all been to a café, bar, restaurant where the food may have been excellent but the service was not and we felt disgruntled, almost offended and we never went back and worse still told all our friends and family about how crap the service was, don’t be that business.

Offering exceptional service and a wonderful experience is the simplest way to differentiate yourself in this competitive market place.


Choosing the right site is another key factor to the success of your hospitality business, for example, is there ample parking for both your employees and customers.  Is the site easily accessible via public transport?  Is it in a highly visible, high foot traffic location or not?

Is there something unique about the location?  The history of the neighbourhood or the site itself?  Does the site suit your design vision?

Basically, visibility and foot traffic are key to help you get noticed, especially in the first few weeks of opening. 

When considering the right location, also consider the competition.


One of the factors that makes our hospitality design service unique, is that I have an MA in Marketing Communication, which ensures all the design solutions we present to our clients make sense from a hospitality business AND an interior design perspective.  When we talk to our clients about marketing, we know what we’re talking about and we also know that there’s more to marketing than Instagram.

Indeed, Instagram is an important channel to promote your business, but so is your website, and Facebook, email marketing, PR and so on.

Having pretty pictures on your Instagram feed is no longer enough.  All your marketing touch points and channels need to be on brand and strategic.

As mentioned above the customer experience starts online and customers will already have an expectation of what to expect from their visit to your café, bar or restaurant based on what they see online, which is why having a polished online presence is really important.

Seek out the help of marketing professionals to nail your marketing strategy from brand values, key messages, images etc.

There are 7 key Ps of Marketing (below), knowing about these is a good start and getting help to address these Ps over time can make a huge difference and contribute to the success of your hospitality business.

A close up of a logo

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Brand/Visual Identity

I think we can all remember of a time when we visited a café that didn’t meet our expectations.  For me it was recently visiting a local Italian eatery called Mamma’s Boy.  The name Mamma’s Boy immediately tells me a story; that the owner, ‘the Boy’, learnt to cook from his mother, who was an amazing cook.  I had an expectation of eating great, authentic, Italian food.  This expectation was not met when I was served burnt lasagne, I will not return to Mamma’s Boy.

Your hospitality business needs to tell a story that is consistent and cohesive; from the food, to the interior design and the graphic design; which comes into play when thinking about your business name, menu, signage, and marketing all need to work together, strategically.

A great visual identity helps you differentiate yourself form the competition.  Gives you credibility as a business, ensures consistency across all our customer touch points and gives you a platform to tell your story coherently.

As with marketing, seek the help of a graphic designer who can create a brand that communicates your brand values for you not just a logo and sets the right expectations.

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Interior Design

Did you know that there are 7 elements and 5 principles of interior design?

The 7 elements are; space, line, shape, colour, texture, light, and pattern.

The 5 principles are; balance, rhythm & repetition, emphasis, proportion & scale and harmony.

After talking to our clients about their business, and understanding how the other 6 pillars of hospitality business success are working together, we then come up with the interior design to deliver an amazing space that takes into consideration all the element and principles of interior design mentioned above.

A space that people love spending time in, tells our client’s story, and of course is Instagrammable.

We follow a process that starts with completing a comprehensive Brief, developing Concepts, Implementation & Styling.  This fail-safe process ensures we produce practical solutions, beautiful designs and happy clients.

Reflecting on my initial conundrum about why some cafes flourish and others don’t, I have no doubt now, after working on so many hospitality design projects that interior design is a critical pillar to success but doesn’t stand alone as the only reason a hospitality business thrives. 

Interior design combined with the other pillars discussed above presents the complete picture into ensuring your hospitality business survives and thrives.

Check out our portfolio and contact us if you’re ready to create a special hospitality business together.