Running a busy cafe can be a mixed blessing. During busier than normal times like weekends or holidays, queues can form quickly. As coffee orders pile up customers will have to wait longer, inevitably things can and will go wrong, and cafe staff will be feeling the added pressure to keep up — nobody wins.
To avoid manic-cafe-stress-syndrome we present to you 5 cafe tips to managing a cafe during busy times and greeting everyone with a smile.
1. Everyone has a role to play
It’s a team sport (or insert your favourite group activity here) but in order to get orders out the door, everyone behind the counter has a specific role to play. It should be clear who is on what ‘station’ and what their primary job is. Each station has a specific job and can be split into taking orders and payments at the till, pulling shots of espresso, steaming and pouring milk. But equally important is that everyone is confident at doing all jobs so that they can jump in at any station and take over if needed.
Having said that, baristas should not be confined to the same station for hours on end. It’s not only monotonous but it’s inevitable that quality might suffer. To avoid this, rotate people between stations throughout the day to keep things interesting.
Having good workflow is how you keep everything fast and consistent even when it’s busy. This means everything from having the right person in the right place, to making sure your grinders are in the most convenient place to allow the speediest service possible. Are all your extra cups kept somewhere that is really difficult to get to? That’s going to slow service down — take a step back and look at your set up, what can be done to improve your workflow? It may only help a second here or there, but good workflow makes all the difference when the pressure is on.
3. Would you pay for this coffee?
It’s worth taking a step back and evaluating how things are flowing. Are there any bottlenecks that can be simplified? Do you have the right equipment in place? Is there anything that’s over-complicated and should be streamlined?
The hallmark of a good coffee professional is that they are able to consistently make good coffee at speed.
However, simplifying jobs and making things more efficient is never an excuse to cut corners or sacrifice quality. Give yourself and others permission to redo a shot or steam fresh milk if it’s not up to scratch. When serving up coffee always ask yourself, would you be happy to pay for it?
4. Clean as you go
This may be the least glamorous sounding bullet point here, but take note because it’s an important one.
There’s a lot of repetition in making coffee and anything that is not cleaned as you go is essentially only going to come back and get in the way later. It’s simply good practice to build up that habit of cleaning as you go. Baristas will (and should) break into a cold sweat at the sight of portafilters with spent coffee, crusty steam wands (yuck), coffee grounds everywhere, and other unmentionables.
The same principle applies to being organised for the day and week ahead. Like making sure that coffee beans have been ordered ahead of time and that your espresso beans are rested. Another example would be having a cleaning checklist for the end of the day - because there’s nothing worse than opening a dirty cafe at the crack of dawn, and mornings are really best spent dialling in your coffee and preparing for the morning rush.
5. Customer service is key
Sometimes to produce great coffee for a large number of people does take time, but this is where customer service becomes key. If you’ve managed the expectations of your customers well, then they will always be happy to wait. Communication of waiting times, being able to clock who may have been missed (obviously this should never happen, but we all know it does sometimes), is fundamental to keeping everyone happy. Maintaining eye contact and being open to communicating with people who may be becoming frustrated is necessary to keeping everyone happy.
Part of this is keeping the communication between the different stations fluid and open, letting each other know where there might be problems. Keeping your head up and your eyes open whilst being able to keep your head down and working hard is the key to keeping communication open and making sure everyone is happy.
A great way of ensuring that everyone is up to speed and operating at the same level is training and SCA certification. At Climpsons & Sons we offer SCA certified barista courses from foundation to professional as well as complimentary barista training to our wholesale customers.
The moral of this tale is that everyone should work together to keep everything running smoothly and everyone happy by following the above tips. Because in a nutshell, when the pressure is off people work a lot better, but if you look at the above points a queue and the pressure of a high volume day should be a pleasure, not a panic.