Hunt and Darton: a model for an agile cafe

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Hunt and Darton recently opened a cafe close to where I live. I was initially interested as good coffee two minutes away from my flat is very appealing, but a visit to the cafe revealed a bit more; a cafe in Hackney with an agile sensibility and the heart of an artist (a little bit like me).

Anyone that knows me will know that as well as being an agile delivery manager, I also run a social forum for Hackney, so am always interested in things going on in the borough (I interviewed them both over here as a part of that), they’d also know that I have an interest in London’s shops and the entrepreneurial spirit of London shop owners. Those who have known me a little longer will know that I have a masters in fine art. It’s fair to say that all of my interests were piqued by what Hunt and Darton are doing.

Hunt and Darton is a collaboration between two artists; Jenny Hunt and Holly Darton. The project was conceived as interactive art installation, which they have performed it a few times as a pop-up in both Cambridge and Edinburgh. They were recently offered the chance to run it at a slightly more permanent location on Lower Clapton Road, in the London borough of Hackney.

They are running a business as an art project, considering user experience, iterating and being transparent by putting it on a wall (or in this case a big chalkboard).

This isn’t software or product delivery, it’s a cafe.

User experience and iteration

As performance artists Hunt and Darton hold user experience in high regard, they know performance is all about how the user feels and they don’t see the cafe as any different. If you have a comment or complaint you can write it on the board, for them and everyone else to see. They’ll then add this to their list of actions and write it up on the board when it’s done.

They improve their customer’s experience by asking them for feedback, for example: in week three, they have already added gluten free cakes and moved the chairs around so buggies can get in more easily.

A local baker brought in a vegan cake, which they are trying out with customers, if it goes down well, they will sell it.

photos by Laura Sweeney

Being open and transparent


They are transparent about more than this though. In response to our economic climate, they wanted to provoke dialogue surrounding the business, so they put their costs, takings and profits up on the board as well as how much they pay to make a coffee vs what the customer pays.

Although unconventional, this makes it clear to the customer where their money is going and what it is that they are paying for. Any profits they do make are used to improve the experience or commission artists to take part in the project.

As well as this I really like the idea that anyone else wanting to open a business can learn from Hunt and Darton’s experience.

I’d love to see more businesses run this way; it echoes the world of agile development and encourages openness, discussion and community involvement. I’ll be keeping a keen eye on how the project goes (as well as popping in regularly for an Allpress caffeine fix)

**UPDATE – Hunt and Darton have left their former Clapton home and are taking their project on the road, keep an eye on their blog to see if they are coming to a town near you. ** 


  1. Finally got around to reading this. Awesome post Emz. It really does have everything you’re interested in huh!?

    I love the transparency of the complaints & revenue on the wall. I often think that if coffee giants like buckstars (or whatever they’re called) put this on the wall, people would not go there. Imagine: we pay coffee growers this, middle men this, barristas this, the tax man this, and we make HOW MUCH!?

    • thanks Amyz 🙂
      I was also wondering about what would happen if supermarkets did the same… you pay x for your milk, we pay farmers y, the way people shop may be very different.

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