Getting Profitable: Lesson 8

Coordinating the Activities Necessary for Profitability

In this final article about “how to get profitable in the coffee business,” we will examine how to plan, monitor, and keep control of the tasks and activities that will increase your business profitability.

When I managed restaurants decades ago for national and regional chains, moving the business forward was a monthly goal and expectation. My regional manager used to say, “your business is either growing, or regressing, there is no such thing as a plateau!” Monthly goals always included actions to reduce costs and build sales. Beyond profit-building activities, tasks might have also included actions related to needed store maintenance, refining or creating operational systems, and providing enhanced employee training and education. We’ve discussed many of those tasks in the articles over the last year, so if you’ve been following this series, assembling a list of “things to do” shouldn’t be difficult. However, remembering all the things on your list, and administering them until they are completed, can prove to be challenging.

Good ideas and admirable intentions are just that; ideas and intentions. It is not until you write them down on paper, assign someone to be responsible for their completion, set a time table, and create a system to monitor and measure progress, that your ideas and intentions will become a viable plan.

Let’s assume that the activities for the first month of your profit-building mission might include actions like the following:

1. Mandate that all cashiers verbally promote and upsell to all customers.

For example:

A. If a customer does not specify a size when they order a beverage, never ask “what size drink would you like.” Instead, always ask, “would you like a big one?”

B. Suggest a specific food item to complement the beverage that the customer has ordered.

2. Distribute to-go menus with an attached coupon to surrounding businesses and households.

3. Complete the first 3-items on the “needed store maintenance” list.

4. Teach food prep cooks how to analyze the daily consumption of panini and salads, and how to set production “pars.”

After you’ve set your objectives for the month, I suggest that you write each one down on a planning sheet. This sheet should include lines to fill in the following information:

1. What is the task to be performed?

2. Who will be responsible for completing that task?

3. How should the task be executed?

4. Where will the task take place?

5. When should the task be started and completed by?

6. What will be the incentive or compensation to the person performing the task?

7. Who will be responsible for providing education, support, and monitoring the progress of the execution of that task?

Answering the above-mentioned questions for each profitability objective, will help ensure that things are getting done. You can certainly record, review, and update this info on your computer, but I think printing it out and posting it to the wall in your office over your desk, is far more effective. Why you ask? Documents on your computer can be easily overlooked, however, if they are posted on the wall, where they will be staring you in the face, they’ll be harder to forget about or ignore.

I think an important factor contributing to the successful completion of your tasks, is inquiring about the progress being made before the due date for completion has arrived. For example, if you have assigned an employee the task of distributing to-go menus and coupons to a specific area of your marketing map, then you should ask them about their progress halfway through the month, or at very least, a week before it is scheduled to be completed. If they are lagging behind on their distribution efforts, or worse yet, haven’t even started, you’ll have a chance to reinforce your expectations, and provide some additional motivation. After all, you will want to set them up for success, not failure! Checking to see how they are doing, and letting them know you are depending upon them to get the task done, will give them a chance to be successful in completing their assigned mission.

I’ve found that the vast majority of business objectives can be broken-down into one of four categories: internal marketing, external marketing, store maintenance, and operational improvements. I suggest you print out tasks using a different color font for each category. This will allow you to easily assess which category each store objective is targeted for.

Once you have determined all of your objectives for a month, and write them down on planning sheets, you’ll only need to read them every day, and keep them in the forefront of your mind as you go about your daily activities. The objective is to accomplish all your goals by the end of the month, and then continue those actions, while adding new goals each and every month.

Moving your business from losses to profitability will most likely require that multiple actions be performed consistently over a period of time. If you don’t accomplish everything that you had planned on doing during a month, that’s OK, just complete those unfinished actions the following

month. The key to success is persistence and consistency.

If you did not get a chance to read all the articles that were included in this series over the past year, or if you just desire more detailed information,

check out my e-book, “How to get Profitable in the Coffee Business,” at

Good luck!

Ed Arvidson is a 25-year veteran consultant to the Specialty Coffee industry, and President of E&C Consulting. 

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