Cameron Fry, founder of Liqui Group, shares secrets of designing a successful coffee shop and creating an ideal atmosphere
What is your idea of the ideal coffee shop interior?
The design of the ideal coffee shop is focussed around a given space—it’s the ideal layout for that particular location. In London, we typically get long, awkward spaces, whereas in the Middle East they can be massive in size. If a client wants a cosy coffee shop environment, then, of course, we need to do something that will transform a massive space into a cosy place. Really, it’s about creating an ideal atmosphere—the design is then steered by this. Coffee shops can be noisy and so soft furnishings really help. The business model is also important: if the client’s business is coffee-centric and does not offer food, then this should be incorporated into the arrangement of the space. For example, there will be a certain type of seating for people who want to sit for a while and different seating for those who are there to quickly drink a coffee and go.
How did you set about designing the spaces for Brew92, a Saudi Arabian-based speciality café and roastery?
The work for Brew92 came about because Liqui had built a reputation in the industry over the course of seven years, culminating in designing The London Coffee Festival. We had a stand at the festival and a visitor asked what else we had designed. So, we showed them several of our projects and explained that we had also designed the entire festival. He went for a wander, returning later and asking to speak with me—that’s where it all kicked off when the work with Brew92 came into being. In creating spaces for Brew92, we were given a lot of free reins. They very much believe in the experience side of the coffee shop, and that made our job a lot easier. Brew92 wants to offer an experience to every customer walking through the door, and everyone of their stores is different: Brew92 in Jeddah is different from Brew92 in Riyadh. There is also a greater emphasis placed on a comfortable environment—Brew92 doesn’t mind people sitting for longer and will offer table service.
How important is the experience of the coffee industry when thinking about coffee shop design?
At Liqui, we’ve learned a lot through working with The London Coffee Festival, as well as working with some of the best, award-winning baristas and coffee consultants in the world. We’re giving Barista training to our team, so they can really immerse themselves in the semantics and culture of coffee. I’ve done it—I’ve had that experience and feel I’m a better designer for it. I go into details and want the design team to understand the various nuances around working with coffee. Anything we can do that will technically and creatively advance our design processes, we’ll do it. It’s an obsession and we’re all pretty geeky. Sustainability is a very important part of designing for us. Most of the furniture we put into a coffee shop is made with solid, sustainably sourced timber, but the quality also makes the furniture sustainable, ensuring it will last. And we’ve made our products in such a way that they can be refurbished, rather than disposed of, so reducing our carbon footprint.
What’s on the horizon for Liqui in terms of coffee shop design?
We’re working on a number of projects in the Middle East as well as several high-end concepts in London. We want to keep on honing our skills in the coffee industry, continually learning from and improving on what we’ve already achieved.