How do I Design and Run a Cafe in London?

You’re a passionate entrepreneur with previous business experience and you want to design your ideal cafe what questions do you ask and what solutions are available?

As with many entrepreneurs, we’ve all been through the idea of running your own cafe, big or small, it has crossed our minds but how do we achieve it? And most importantly, how do we design a cafe that reflects the culture we want to provide? We started in the same way, passionate about coffee, cultural spaces and good people and wanting to surround ourselves with all three we set out to design the ideal space to encompass both our practice: Common Ground Workshop and our cafe The Common E2.Before we get into the details of what guides a successful cafe it is important to understand where we have coming from as a design practice. In 2014 we set out in search for the perfect space to house our hybrid business; cafe cum open architecture studio. Set in Bethnal Green against the backdrop of the Winkley Estate Complex and Durham Yard we opened The Common E2 cafe. This cafe has became the foundation for the design practice that we have built over the ensuing years and a space that has become a staple for the local (and not so local) community.

Elements of The Perfect Cafe

We know our market very well now and this has matured over the five years The Common E2 has been in business. Below we have outlined a few of the key elements that drive a successful cafe. These elements shouldn’t be overlooked but we’ll keep it short as what we really want to focus on here is the design of the cafe and perfecting your space.

Make Your Cafe Unique

Competition is at an all time high, if you’re not bringing something noteworthy to the table you might need to reconsider your approach. There is a strong movement towards local business and reducing waste, see what trade you can make locally to create a reciprocal business model.

Quality of Service, Professionalism and Respect

Always keep in mind that you’ll be the new local business/ business person, until they know you and your business you can’t afford to miss a beat. You’ll need to earn the respect of the locals that will be driving regular business. This is especially important when you are indeed bringing something new or unique to the area, the locals need a reason to believe your business is worth it.

Invest in The Right Staff

This is an addition of the previous note, your staff need to be an extension of you and need to exude the same passion for the business as you do. You will be surprised what a single, bad interaction can do to your business. You need to be able to trust your team to make decisions in the interest of your business, although hard to come by, you’ll know it when you find it.

Research and Knowing your Locals / Patience

Take some time to visit all of the local businesses that align with the objectives you have for your cafe. Spending some time in the area you plan to open a cafe will be invaluable to your understanding of the community and what people want.

Designing the Perfect Cafe


Location and the space itself plays a massive role in the final character of a cafe. If you’re off the high street your offering will need to be that much more bespoke to your locals but that can show longterm value.


This is your first impression for most new customers, incorporate your logo and invest in the elevation as this too is a longterm investment.


Once you enter a space the mood is immediately set by the ambiance of the space and what controls ambiance more than lighting?


Style plays a role in the space well before people ever visit. With the presence of digital and the importance of marketing your business online you’ll find that many people make a quick decision simply by visiting your website for a quick-click or your google maps listing.