Mangrove café

School Café design project

Jenny Mollon looks at how a new café design has united schools with different identities across an international school group in the UAE.

Design and school identity

Every international school leader will know the vital importance of upholding and communicating their unique school brand, especially in the current highly dynamic international education market.  At Kidzink + Koda, we invest a great deal of time in understanding how our architectural, interior and furniture designs help to elevate and reinforce branding in the schools we work with.

Our focus on this important, yet often overlooked area, has recently evolved beyond simply designing for an overarching school brand, and we have now worked with many schools to create ‘sub’ brands for specific spaces within their schools. One example of this is our work with the Taaleem group of schools in the UAE, and our creation of The Mangrove Café brand. With the group operating multiple school brands, The Mangrove Café is now a sub-brand that unites Taaleem schools offering different curriculums in different locations to different students.

In any network of school campuses, visibility and connection is crucial. A strong cafeteria brand increases cross-campus recognition among students, staff, and parents across multiple locations, making it more likely that they will choose the cafeteria for their meals. Consistent branding across various channels, from digital platforms to on-site signage, helps create a cohesive and lasting impression.

Jubail Mangrove Park – Abu Dhabi

Why ‘mangrove’?

Inspired by the UAE’s lush green spaces and natural mangrove coastlines, Kidzink’s vision was to infuse serenity into school spaces, providing a haven for socialising and relaxation. Lush mangroves, vital green sanctuaries covering over 150 square kilometres along the UAE coastline, became a metaphor for the envisioned spaces. Collaboration with Taaleem birthed the brand name “The Mangrove Café” for a café-style canteen, one intended to symbolise wellbeing, tranquillity and escape.

The concept for The Mangrove Café brand also aims to connect the school community with environmental values and supports in-school for conservation initiatives. This element shaped the eventual interior design elements, all of which were guided by “The Mangrove Café” brand. A comprehensive brand guideline identified consistent colour palettes, textures, graphics, and plants.

The team then developed distinct brand visions for each Mangrove Café location at different schools, ensuring consistency with contemporary food and beverage franchises.

Other brand elements

Our designers also believed that school cafeterias should go beyond simply serving meals – they are spaces which contribute significantly to the overall staff and student experience. The Mangrove Café design is the brainchild of Kidzink’s Brand Experience Director, Adam James, who also drew inspiration from both his teaching career and commercial retail graphic design background when leading this project.

Adam believed that a strong cafeteria brand will communicate reliability, consistency and a true commitment to providing children with nutritious and appealing meals. A positive reputation built through branding efforts also enhances the credibility of the cafeteria, assuring nutrition savvy parents that their children are receiving high-quality and healthy meals during the school day.  Ultimately, it is hoped that The Mangrove Café brand will act as a hub for all wellness initiatives in Taaleem schools.

School design

In the collaborative environment of a group of school campuses, cafeteria branding is not just about creating a logo or a tagline; it’s about establishing a meaningful and authentic culinary identity that resonates with students, faculty, and parents.

A well-crafted cafeteria brand can set the service on the path to long-term success by attracting student engagement, building trust, and fostering a positive reputation across multiple campuses. Through effective branding, cafeteria services can position themselves as integral components dedicated to culinary excellence, nutritional well-being, and a vibrant school community.

The Mangrove Café is therefore a good example of what can be achieved by taking a holistic approach to school design.  Our aim is always to design spaces that challenge traditional norms, placing the child at the heart of every idea and then crafting the essence and purpose behind a space’s existence.  This extends from branding and interior design within a school building right through to holistic design solutions.

Of course, this approach lends itself well to branding other spaces within schools: Adam and his team are now working on similar projects for the performing arts, sports and innovation spaces in schools.


Jenny Mollon is Director of Education at Kidzink + Koda, a school arcitectural, interior design and furniture manufacturing company based in the UAE. 

If the kind of sub-branding illustrated by the design of the Mangrove Café is of interest to you and your school, please contact



Jubail Mangrove Park – Abu Dhabi by Syed H on Unsplash

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