Coffee Store Design: Sit Down, Drive Thru, or Both?

Scooter's Coffee Drive-Thru with American Flag

The design of your coffee store will be an integral factor in how your business operates. Aside from the java, what other reasons do customers have for visiting your shop? For a sit-down café, ambiance and environment play a huge role. For a drive-thru, convenience and speed of service are priorities. Setting the right scene for your customers to enjoy their coffee will go far to encourage repeat business and entice new guests to visit.

Design matters when it comes to opening a coffee shop. Learn about sit down, drive-thru, and stores that offer both, as well as which yields the biggest profit.


When considering the traditional coffee shop model, the coffee store design evokes the aromas of freshly brewed coffee and buttery breakfast treats, a warm and welcoming environment populated with comfy chairs and Wi-Fi access where consumers can gather with friends, peruse the morning news, and catch up on work over their favorite cup of joe.

Sit-down coffee shops require parking or easy pedestrian access, whether they plan on a quick pop-in or a lingering visit. Even for those desiring a brief visit to grab a coffee on their way to somewhere else, the design of a traditional coffee shop should be relaxed and inviting, generally occupying a space large enough to suit a range of capabilities.

While all coffee store designs require many of the same cost considerations, the overhead for a sit-down model will be significantly higher than that of a drive-thru or hybrid store. Since more space is required, real estate costs and taxes will be a leading expense, along with the need to employ a larger staff, furnishings and upkeep, and ongoing cosmetic improvements.

Another factor to consider is that by making your coffee shop comfortable and inviting, you are encouraging patrons to stay longer, which may cut into turn-around time and lower your overall daily customer count.


Sometimes people just need to grab a quick cup on their way to somewhere else. While traditional coffeehouses provide this opportunity, nothing beats the ease and convenience of enjoying your favorite buzzy brew without ever having to leave your car.

Furthermore, the costs for operating a drive-thru model are significantly lower than that of a traditional sit-down coffeehouse. The footprint is much smaller, therefore real estate is less expensive, internal aesthetic expenses are lower, and the staff requirements are reduced. The top-most priorities for a drive-thru coffee shop are quality, convenience, and speed. As a result of these priorities, the customer turn-over rate is much higher.

While the drive-thru has been around for decades, the convenience and sustainability of such a business model has never been more apparent than during the onset of the pandemic, when quarantine and mandatory restrictions limited the ability to offer indoor gathering spaces. Drive-thrus became more vital than ever, many businesses were not only able to remain operational but become essential locations for consumers in search of a well-crafted coffee.

A drive-thru coffee business is also an efficient model for multi-unit franchising. As more units set up shop in a market or region, consumers become even more familiar and comfortable with the brand and rely on it for convenient coffee.


For savvy entrepreneurs who see the benefits in both sit-down and drive-thru coffee store designs, a hybrid model provides the best of both worlds, serving both the customers who would like to enjoy a laid-back in-store environment and the ability to roll up for a coffee in the midst of their daily commute.

Scooter’s Coffee® was an early adopter of the hybrid model in the late 1990s when coffeehouses were becoming ubiquitous. At the time, there were ample spots to sit and enjoy a hot cup of joe, but the drive-thru had yet to take over. When the Scooter’s Coffee founders considered how to start a coffee stand, they knew that hybridizing the approach would be the best way to optimize revenue. By combining world-class customer service, quality product, and convenience of both models, Scooter’s Coffee became a success.

Scooter’s Coffee serves as both a classic coffeehouse and a drive-thru kiosk, and the brand’s two business models offer excellent opportunities for entrepreneurs. Whether you dream of serving coffee to relaxed, seated patrons or thirsty go-getters on their way to the next adventure, Scooter’s Coffee can help.


With over 340 locations nationwide, our special formula just goes to show that when you combine a great idea with an unwavering commitment to quality, great things are possible.

Start your franchising adventure with Scooter’s Coffee today by requesting more information here.