When a new café opens, there are a thousand things that need to be done, and the money just won’t stop pouring out. So many cafes open their doors at the first opportunity, leaving many things unfinished, with you and your staff unprepared.
“You have one chance to make a first impression.”
As a café owner, it is important to ask the following questions: When a customer walks into your store, how are they greeted? Does your staff continue working with their heads down, ignoring the customer until they are at the counter ready to order, or do they introduce themselves and your company to this new customer? When the customer orders their drink, how confident is your staff in the recipe they are following? Are your customers the guinea pigs for your staff that are making this drink for the first time? Or has the staff practiced these drinks many times before and are preparing the drinks with confidence? If there are no customers in the store, does your staff have checklists to follow for prioritizing what needs to be done or do they stand around and talk while the bathrooms are dirty and the creamer is empty? And what about when your staff leaves for the day? Do they feel as though they represented you and themselves well, or do they really have no idea what your business stands for?
You have one chance to make a first impression, and the chances of this impression being great are much improved when you open with a well-trained staff that has procedures to follow and checklists to implement. While these items aren’t much fun to talk about, they really are what allow a business to grow and operate efficiently.
Procedures and recipes are something that a new business should be working on weeks in advance of opening. Any time your staff prepares something they should prepare it by following an exact recipe. I had a teacher in the 3rd grade that had all of us write down the directions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While this sounds like a simple task, the results were hilarious. She followed all of our directions to the T, and out of a class of twenty she ended up with just a few edible sandwiches. Many of us never specified to use a knife to spread the peanut butter or jelly, so she smeared it on with her hands. Others never even said to take the bread of the bag, so she spread peanut butter and jelly on the bag. While these may sound like extreme examples, I am constantly shocked by the things my staff does when there are not explicit instructions. For every recipe you create, give it to your staff and don’t say anything, just watch. Any time you see them struggle, you know you need to rewrite the directions.
Now, while you can write instructions for most things, there will always be a few items that also require a skill in order to do the task properly. For those items, you need to make sure that you allow your staff the time to develop those skills. Steaming milk is a perfect example; one cannot simply read how to properly steam milk. You need to begin by giving your staff the proper training and then you need to give them time to develop and perfect that skill. They should not be practicing these skills on paying customers; otherwise they will not be paying customers for very long.
Other items you can write detailed instructions for are checklists (for example: opening, closing, shift change, etc). Checklists are one of the most important things that a business can utilize for success. Look at the big guys: Whether it is McDonalds or Starbucks, there is a checklist for everything. It allows for people to operate with efficiency and ensure that everything gets done. For instance, when your morning crew comes in, do they remember to put the creamer out or is it the first customer of the day who has to ask for it? Does your closing crew have a checklist that is organized in the way in which they should work? Is it written in a way that prevents one person from sweeping before the other person has wiped down the counters? Do any of these lists even exist at all? You also want to write lists for when there are no customers in the store—for when the staff should be cleaning up and getting ahead, rather than leaning on counters and chatting about last night’s episode of The Real Housewives.
All of these questions about what your staff believes and how they work relate to the important essential that every business needs but many lack, and that is culture. What message is it that you are sending to your staff and what message are they sending to your customers? While this may sound vague, try to think of it this way. If a customer was to order an espresso on ice, would you give it to them without question, or would you get into a lengthy explain about how espresso should not be served over ice? Or maybe you threaten to punch them in the groin because you believe that it is a sin to have espresso on ice! No matter how you choose to respond or react in a situation such as this, you have to ask yourself, how would my staff respond? The key here is have built a strong culture in which your staff not only asks, “What Would the Boss Do?” but they actually know the answer to that question and they do the same. This creates a consistency among individual staff, across multiple locations, and throughout the business as a whole.
Looking back on the last few paragraphs, there are a lot of questions. Hopefully, this will get you to think about how to both start and grow your business and what is necessary in order to take it to the next level. Does your staff know your recipe for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?
Heather Perry, Director of Training & Consulting, Klatch Coffee Inc.
Heather has fifteen years of experience in the coffee industry. She began her coffee career at the age of eleven by washing dishes and sweeping floors in her parent’s coffeehouse. By the age of fifteen, Heather was working behind the espresso machine and experimenting with different drinks. Since her first shot of espresso, Heather has continued to improve and hone her skills behind the bar. Heather holds many Barista titles including 2003 and 2007 U.S. Barista Champion, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 Western Barista Champion, 2007-2010 Ultimate Barista Champion and finished 2nd in the World at World Championships in Tokyo. Heather graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in International Business and Marketing.