The increasing appeal of the independent coffee shop in today’s food and beverage market has not escaped the notice of the world of racing. How could it when the Independent Coffee shop is, it seems, everywhere, occupying both street corners and consumer’s hearts. In fact the consumer’s hankering for the charms of an independent is so strong that Starbucks have even set up three new shops in Seattle taking on the look and feel of an independent. Not without controversy we might add. Many racecourse teams have expressed a desire to ‘step away’ from the coffee shop chains and create their own unique independent coffee shops.
The On Tour team has been on hand to help the process along. Having surveyed the London café scene, we’ve found the secret (or rather seven secrets) to its success and have provided the racing world with a succinct step-by-step recipe to the creation of its own quirky Independent Coffee Shop Heaven!
1. Beans Glorious Beans
The first step to creating Independent Coffee Shop Heaven is a good quality, exotically/ethically sourced, preferably locally roasted coffee bean. Sheets of paper placed carefully on counter tops and tables articulating the impressive qualities of said bean will add to your Independent Coffee Shop’s street cred and assure customers that their money has been well spent – regardless of the price. A good quality coffee bean necessitates a menu complete with the latest in coffee-based drinks including current favourites the Long Black (Americano) and the Flat White (double-shot Latte). A machine dispensing electronic cappuccinos and lattes simply will not do!
2. Industrial Chic
Now that you’ve got your coffee beans all sourced and nicely presented (we suggest rustic brown paper bags for packaging) it’s time to consider what you want the shop to look like. For interior design, think ‘abandoned Victorian textile factory’, all exposed brick, white tiles, dark wood and the odd black, metal railing or hook dangling from the ceiling. But don’t forget to balance this industrial, urban aesthetic with copious amounts of throw cushions and other such soft furnishings. These soft furnishings should provide what might seem like an otherwise monochrome design with its colour accents and so feel free to go as bright and clashing as possible. In terms of lighting it should only ever be soft, hanging, shade-less bulbs work well, as do strings of fairy lights and/or pendant enamel shades. If it looks unplanned and eclectic then you’re on the right track.
3. The Winning Menu
After making sure you’ve created the right look-and-feel for your shop it is time to consider the other vital element to any independent café and that is the menu. Customers will expect an array of artisan baked goods (try to achieve a 3-2-1 ratio of muffins, brownies and cupcakes). ‘Classics done well’ is the thing to bear in mind when it comes to sweet treats. A homemade Victoria Sponge and some rather robust, fruity flapjacks are always appreciated. To demonstrate your shop’s home-made credentials you may want to write up some recipes for your delicious baked goods on chalkboards displayed artfully on the walls or place a stack of take-home recipe cards on the service counter. As far as lunch is concerned, doorstep sandwiches are a safe bet but try to avoid processed fillers à la tuna sweet-corn. Traditional combinations such as ham and cheese are fine but make sure that if you’re going down the ‘ham and cheese’ route it’s cheddar from the local organic dairy and honey roasted ham hock. Note that when it comes to sandwiches the bread is critical. If you go too artisan then it lacks appeal to the masses but anything approaching a soft white will leave customers wondering why they didn’t make a packed-lunch that morning. Other interesting lunch items include soups in the winter, salads in the summer and savoury tarts
4. The Ultimate Barista
Next it is time to think about who you want in charge of cutting those espresso shots and steaming that milk to perfection. This is an extremely important step, as coffee connoisseurs will pay close attention to your barista looking for signs of craftsmanship and skill. Training is therefore absolutely crucial to the shop’s success. For guidance on this, bear in mind that an independent’s barista must be the antithesis of a Starbucks assembly line. As for the rest of the staff, they should be well-mannered individuals with equal parts style and wit, displaying both excellent customer service skills and conversational abilities that stretch beyond the usual ‘Hello what can I get you?’ formula. The independent coffee shop derives its personality from its staff and so it is vital that they are allowed to be themselves. When it comes to uniform, at most we’re talking a logo-ed (preferably black) apron.
5. Merchandising: Get Creative
Now it is time for merchandising, this is the realm where the Independents can show off. Whether you choose to go for the eclectic ‘none-of-our-cutlery-matches-and-oh-gosh-neither-do-our-plates’ look or a uniform kit of black slates for displaying food, white American diner-esque cups for coffee and Duralex glasses for juices, the important thing is merchandising allows you to express your creative sensibilities.
6. What’s in a name?
When the time comes to name the shop don’t be daunted. There are certain formulas that work well and are relatively easy to come up with. The one we’d recommend is the ‘name & name’ formula whereby you take two words or last names and join them together with ‘and’. Here are some examples: Foxcroft & Ginger (a popular and trendy London Independent) Harris + Hoole (chain of ‘independent’ coffee shops backed by Tesco) and Melrose & Morgan (another London favourite). If those don’t take your fancy then why not come up with a coffee-related pun for example, Daily Grind, Brewed Awakenings and our personal favourite, Palpitations? The humorous names work particularly well because they allow the personality of the shop to shine through.
7. Independent Touches
Finally it is time to add on those finishing touches that will make visiting your independent coffee shop so much more rewarding than a trip to Costa or Café Nero. Here are a few suggestions:
- Slices of lemon and mint in your jugs of free tap water on the tables
- A sound-track of soothing, alternative music (jazz works well as does indie-folk).
Why not get some records and a vinyl player? A sure-fire way to quadruple your street cred.
- At least one long communal table to achieve that unique community atmosphere that is key to a great independent coffee shop
- To really boost your foodie credentials, why not have a selection of organic, locally sourced produce for sale?
- Appropriate and interesting complimentary reading material
It’s a stimulating place out there so keep up where you can.