Roundup of the new coffee shops catching our attention and the trends shaping the industry
With rents becoming increasingly expensive, there’s more coffee shops utilising compact spaces. These three examples are in prime London spots. They say it’s location, location, location!
These establishments are also part of the broader trend back towards narrower propositions with a focus on coffee (the opposite of the expansive product ranges offered over the lockdowns). With streamlined operations, thoughtful designers can comfortably fit in everything necessary for a successful, busy service.
This trend seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future. It’s telling that many of the operators scaling up (see below) are also opting for compact, urban sites as they look for affordable rent, consider the future viability of their businesses and return to central city locations.
Catching the crowds
King’s Cross has become a popular coffee hub with its mix of tech workers, students, tourists and shoppers. North London coffee shop Wildcard are the latest to join the N1C postcode having taken outdoor space on the square plus an adjacent, internal kiosk inside the Granary Square building. This makes it an irregular expression amongst the area’s other shops.
While separate, each space is not a substitute for the other: the indoor space houses an espresso bar and a large, communal table as well as providing storage for the outdoor kiosk and covered seating area. It’s a carefully considered solution to the dual challenges of having a small space and operating outdoors. Wildcard’s creativity has given them prime position.
1 Granary Square
Twenty twenty-two vision
Located in a former spectacle store in the City of London, Rosslyn’s second site has plenty of glass to let the light in to this wrap-around, corner site. Mixing new, found and reclaimed features, the shop is a clear statement of intent for a contemporary coffee shop in a heritage area.
The bar utilises a streamlined workflow similar to their first shop, with a KB90 and other automatic coffee-making equipment lined up for speed-of-service.
The team at Rosslyn are currently preparing to open a third shop in The City, they clearly have a strong vision for the future of their brand.
118 London Wall
Running to the circus
Old Spike have track record with compact spaces. Starting out in a small shop in Peckham, they’ve now opened in two small, adjoining units just off London’s Piccadilly Circus. It’s a tight space at just a couple of meters deep, but it comfortably houses an espresso bar on one side with a small seating area on the other, joined by an internal, connecting passage. The off-white tiles and brass fittings, paired with the large windows, create a sense of space.
The espresso bar utilises the compact and energy-efficient Eagle One. Customers can also grab-and-go from the espresso bar ensuring this small space makes the most of the West End’s hurried office workers, shoppers and show goers.
Old Spike Piccadilly
15 – 16 Sherwood St
As lockdown restrictions lift, established coffee operators are opening new sites to make the most of the forthcoming trading opportunities. Each of these three businesses has over half-a-dozen shops in London alone and represent three very different strategies towards scaling.
Seeing operators grow their business is a point-of-interest for many across the coffee industry. With each store, proprietors learn more about their customers’ needs and aspirations and how to refine their business operations to meet them at increasing scale.
Saint Espresso has taken a hero (but at times, rather unloved) space and transformed it into a glowing focal point in Angel. Adorned with Saint’s signature lighting scheme, the circular space has a large central counter with perimeter seating.
The company has steadily grown over the years from their first shop in Camden and now has sites across northern central London plus a new city opening in the works. The quality of the fit out and proposition suggests they are ready to spread their wings.
21 Parkfield Street, Angel Central
Watching the clock
Named after the seven sided sundial, the boutiquey Seven Dials is situated between the well-connected Soho and a bustling Covent Garden. WatchHouse have taken a key site on the main lane and applied their tasteful material and colour palette. Spread over two floors, ground features an espresso bar and seating looking out on to the semi-pedestrianised lane. The basement provides additional capacity for the area’s busy weekend trading and permits service for their all-day brunch menu.
Seven Dials is owned by London landlords Shaftesbury (who have Carnaby Street amongst their holdings) and their understanding of shoppers’ behaviour and their coffee requirements is well-example here. Seven Dials is home to the original Monmouth Coffee on Monmouth Street, the takeout focused Caffè Nero on the Dial, and now WatchHouse’s site provides indoor seating for coffee drinkers as well as lighter menu option than the surrounding restaurants. All of these propositions are essential parts of the retail mix to keep people watered, caffeinated, fed – and shopping in the area.
WatchHouse Seven Dials
7 Upper St Martin’s Lane
Coming up from the Underground at London’s South Kensington station you can’t miss their playful pink and green coffee shop on the southern corner. It’s a great find. Despite the posh connotations, this compact space was somewhat neglected and the neighbourhood is all the better for the addition of this espresso bar.
Over Under have been steadily growing and now have seven sites across west London. With HQ and storage elsewhere, growing companies can use smaller shops to add additional revenue over their existing cost and operational base.
It is, of course, another example of a compact store in a prime location. As well as some well-heeled locals, South Kensington is a popular tourist destination with its mix of cultural institutions, such as the V&A and the Natural History Museum.
Over Under South Kensington
South Kensington Station Arcade
Labours of love
Great coffee shops don’t require big budgets or prime locations to be successful. In fact, many of the shops that stand the test of time are imbued with their owner’s commitment and passion.
One of the most exciting things about coffee is how it continually reinvents itself. New, small, well-honed operators can easily take market share from their larger, established competitors. So every month we see proprietors try new ideas to better meet their customers’ aspirations. These shops are clearly labours of love and put the owner’s values directly into the decor and proposition.
This new takeout espresso bar in Sheffield leans directly into its locale crowning itself Queen of the Suburbs. With a Prima adorning the terrazzo-topped, mirror-fronted counter and a mirror ball hung in the window, the shop clearly reflects the owners’ passion for coffee.
Lockdowns have been challenging for many, but a silver lining has been the explosion of smaller, neighbourhood coffee shops. And Queen of the Suburbs is another example of a smaller premises converted into a coffee establishment (this time on a rollerskate-lace-length budget). With great coffee and strong service, the locals should be getting their skates on for espresso.
Queen of the Suburbs
214 School Rd
Technically not a new opening, but refurbs this good deserve a mention. Scandinavian Coffee Pod started in a dinky 5 sqm yellow container which then moved to its current location in Cheltenham, where it was incorporated into a one-time farm building to create larger rustic store.
Maintaining the original name and ethos, this winter the entire space has been refreshed with heartwarming wood cladding, a multifaceted counter and a new seating area – all while retaining the original, yellow pod. It’s a good example of a shop evolving as the proprietor grows in experience and continues to refine their proposition to meet their customer’s caffeine requirements.
Scandinavian Coffee Pod
The Studios, Royal Well Place