Being efficient and maximising your resources and throughput is at the heart of any coffee shop or café. It can mean the difference between making a small fortune during the lunch time rush, or crashing out miserably with missed sales and unhappy customers.
Thankfully, turning your coffee shop or café into a well-oiled machine that can help you beat the competition doesn’t have to cost you the earth or require huge investments of time. We take you through 4 simple ways to improve a coffee shop’s efficiency, flow and customer experience.
You have no doubt seen it before, a customer walks in, spends the best part of 10 minutes gazing enthusiastically at your wall menu, only to then order their usual English breakfast tea to go! If everyone who comes in during the lunch time rush does this, you’ll soon find yourself backing up with indecisive customers. The quicker they tell you what they want, the quicker you are able to serve them and move on to the next one.
The quicker a customer is able to tell you what they want, the quicker you are able to serve them and move on to the next one.
In his book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, economic Nobel prize winner Richard Thaler explains how people can be ‘nudged’ to make better choices by optimising the environment to guide them in the right direction.
Your goal is to create an environment that helps customers decided what to order. You DO NOT achieve this by providing every single available product on the main menu. The more options available, the longer they will take to decide.
Instead, think about simplifying the coffee shop menu board by providing a top level view of what is available. As trivial as it sounds, if you just serve coffee and tea, then just have that on the menu! Offer different sizes? Add that to the bottom e.g. ‘Go large for X’. There is no need to provide every possible combination of product available. All this serves to do is add indecisiveness to a customer’s thought process.
What if you offer more than just a simple filter coffee or an English breakfast tea? A menu isn’t the only way people make choices. Let them take the visual journey around the counter. If they want a herbal tea, make sure they can see all the teas you offer clearly on a shelf above the barista. If they want flavour added to their coffee, make sure that all your syrups are visible. Place cakes, biscuits and other treats on the counter top near the register for last minute impulse buys.
Train staff to know the different varieties off by heart. It will surprise you no end how decisive a customer can be when provided with a list of options by a barista who then stands patiently waiting for a response. If a customer is still taking their time to decide, train staff to provide a little nudge “Our most popular herbal tea is mint Sir. Shall I make you one?”, “The biscotti goes well with that Madame. Shall I plate one up for you?”
Make it clear where the queue is - no one likes realising they are in the incorrect line or that someone has pushed in front of them.
Consider how customers move across the counter. Typically order and payment will be taken at the same point, but it can often take a minute or so before beverages are delivered. After payment has been taken, encourage customers to move to a ‘waiting area’ for their drinks. Train staff to explicitly mention to customers that their drink will be served to them shortly and they should wait at the other end of the counter.
Train staff to explicitly mention to customers that their drink will be served to them shortly and they should wait at the other end of the counter.
Take the opportunity to engage with customers while they wait. Leave feedback forms or customer loyalty cards near the waiting area. Promote local businesses by displaying flyers and brochures. Advertise event nights or special offers coming up. Whatever you do, just doing something to engage with your customers – it’s a missed opportunity otherwise.
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Think of your barista as a conductor of an orchestra. They need to be able to work in the centre of your serving counter and have 90% of what they need within an arms length, or at worst one stride away.
If possible, have the milk fridge directly underneath the espresso machine to make it easy to refill steamers. Herbal, black and green teas should be easily accessible on a shelf above the work station. Ensure there is enough working space around the espresso machine to place cups, teapots, saucers etc.
Setup the ‘flow’ of making drinks from left to right.
Setup the ‘flow’ of making drinks from left to right. Place coffee beans, grinders and associated utensils on the left. As you flow across the work areas, hot water, steam wands and milk jugs should be on the right. The benefit of this is not only does it provide a natural flow for a single barista, but during really heavy periods two members of staff can use the same space at the same time. One can be pouring shots and filling cups with tea bags, while another can be steaming milk, adding hot water and finishing off the drinks ready to be passed to the service area.
We live in a world of decaf coffee, lactose free milk and extra shots here and there. Whilst it is of course essential to offer these additional items, you should not let them interrupt the flow of your more common products.
Don’t let special order items interrupt the flow of your more common products.
Customers of these special request items are often very willing to wait an extra minute to ensure you steam a separate batch of soy milk for them, making sure to avoid any cross contamination.
It’s a beautiful thing to observe the skill and concentration of a barista locked in the ‘zone’ of the lunch time rush as the list of queued drinks grows bigger and bigger. As soon as you throw in a decaf, soy latte with an extra shot and cream, that focus is lost. If you have the resources, nominate one of your staff to be the ‘specials’ barista. Anytime a special order comes in, it goes to them. If they are not working a special order, they can move back to making standard drinks. In this way, you allow your other staff to focus on the main stream orders and to develop an efficient flow.
We hope the above has given you some ideas that will help improve the efficiency of your café or coffee shop. The end goal is to try and improve the experience that customers get whilst also allowing you to maximise resources, throughput and ultimately profit.
What do you think of our suggestions to improve the efficiency of your café? Do you agree with them? Are there any other quick wins that you feel would be easier to implement? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts.
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