Do you ever wonder why Starbucks is so successful? Well, obviously the company serves great coffee, but so do a lot of other coffee shops. Starbucks is successful because it was the first coffee company to offer a social atmosphere with soft seating, mood lighting and music that keeps people coming back for more and makes for profitable café space.
When adding a café to your fitness facility, you should take a cue from Starbucks. The following are five elements you must consider to make your café successful:
Location. Your café should be located toward the front entry of your facility because that places the café in the highest traffic area of the club, giving it the best exposure to members.
Clientele. The type of members your fitness facility attracts plays a role in the design of the space. To support a variety of customers, you need to provide different types of seating for different activities. For computer junkies, you need tables and chairs with plenty of space for their computers and notes. For social butterflies, soft seating arrangements create a nice lounging space for conversation. And for workout enthusiasts who need to eat and run, stools with a countertop provide a quick in-and-out option.
Amenities. Depending on the level of service of a club, the amenities you offer may be different. A lower-budget club might offer vending machines with healthy food options and pre-packaged foods, which keeps the design and construction costs of the kitchen down. Mid-level clubs might offer a smoothie bar and a small menu of food options for members. At a full-service club, the café could provide a full menu of healthy food options that are prepared fresh. Do not forget to carefully look at the members at your club to determine what will support their café needs.
Wireless access is a must in any café today. Creating a cyber lounge where people can connect via the Internet or in person also will attract more people to your café. Another café amenity is a TV, which can show music videos, news or stock market updates, depending on your members. A TV can help keep your members there. Private meeting rooms also are valuable offerings in mid- to higher-range clubs and can be rented out for a small fee.
Café operations. The café can be operated by your club staff or by food and beverage vendors. Those that are operated by outside vendors tend to be more successful because that is the vendor’s specialty. However, both options may suit different facility models. If you plan to use an outside vendor, consult with them before designing the space because some outside vendors may have specific requirements that could be costly to change during construction.
Materials and design. Cafés located in clubs should work with the architecture and interior design of the surrounding spaces to ensure they are comparable to the facility. It is surprising to see café franchises move into clubs that do not look anything like the club. The character of the franchise or newly designed space must work with the interior finishes and colors created for the main components of the club.
To create a well-functioning café counter, the right materials should be specified. For economical clubs, you can use a low-cost solid surface or plastic laminate. For mid- and high-level clubs, solid surface materials are available in a variety of colors and materials, such as granite, natural stone, stainless steel and more. Having as few seams as possible makes for easier maintenance and is more sanitary. Also extremely critical to the design is the food preparation area. Working closely with the kitchen vendor or lead chef is essential to creating a well-functioning space.
Providing a variety of seating choices, such as tables and chairs, sofas, lounge chairs and banquettes, will give all of your members a place to rest. In addition to the variety of seating, select appropriate materials for the seating. The furniture should be made of wood or plastic, and any fabric should be easy to clean. They also should be more durable than your average furniture to withstand the commercial traffic. Flooring materials also should be easy to maintain. Tile is always a great option and can have the warm look of an elegant wood floor. If you would like to go with carpet in the soft seating area, use an antimicrobial carpet that is more sanitary for when food and drink are spilled.
If you add a café to your club, the elements listed above are vital. Reviewing the types of clients that will use your facility will help in developing the menu and design for the space. By providing welcoming designs with high-tech amenities, you will keep your members coming back for more.
Christa Plaza is a principal and architect at Essenza Architecture specializing in fitness center design. She has a great passion for listening to clients’ visions and turning them into built spaces. Essenza Architecture is an international, eco-friendly firm that blends beauty with function. With more than 30 years of experience, Essenza creates visually interesting and innovative club spaces. Plaza can be reached at [email protected].