We've come a long way since our beginnings back in 2019. One of our biggest learnings was optimising our store to work with the changing demand we see as a centrally located cafe, without compromising on the taste of our coffee. When starting out as a cafe, we really wish we had knew what we knew now about running a successful cafe. So we've listed out below our top tips for busy cafes to maximise their efficiency and help cope with high demand periods when serving specialty coffee...
Tip 1: prepare your double cups for your batch brews (in the quiet period)
Nobody likes burnt hands when taking their batch brew take away, so we always recommend using double takeaway cups (and encouraging customers to reuse the clean outer cup). But it can be fiddly to do this during the busy rush. So we prepare double cups by taking non branded cups and alternating them with our branded cups. This is useful for our staff as they say it helps them grab two at once as they can distinctly see the cups in pairs, and its much appreciated when the customer's hands aren't red raw when they make it back to their office with their coffee!
Tip 2: pre-weigh out your guest espresso/decaf bean servings
In our cafe, we use two of our three grinders to house two of our signature blends, and we use a further third 'empty' grinder to prepare either single origin beans or decaf beans. We keep this grinder empty and only add the pre-weighed serving of beans when the customer orders it. This is much better than having a whole grinder taking up space for decaffeinated beans, and a further for single origin beans. We find that these orders are less common, so having them share a grinder makes more sense here. But what really speeds things up is not weighing the beans out for every order. One of our baristas will pre-weigh the beans in the morning and keep these portions in airtight containers ready to be popped into the grinder (after seasoning the grinder each time).
Tip 3: utilise a 'production line' of stations
Busy periods can be really stress inducing, especially when there's hot liquid, frothed milk and waiting customers. We keep ourselves level headed by utilising stations and discussing this with our team before the rush starts. This can look different depending on the day and likely volume of customers we'll receive. But we often have one team member dedicated to espresso shots, and another dedicated to frothing and serving milk, we might utilise a third team member on 'the pass' to simply announce the orders or take orders to dine in tables. This tends to work really well as we have three pairs of eyes on every coffee to make sure it's the correct order and heading to the right customer.
Tip 4: morning meetings to talk your team through the game plan
As we said above, utilising stations is a really good way to organise amongst the chaos. So we like to have a little team huddle every morning to talk about the positions of our team members, this is also just a good chance to catch up with the team and just make sure everybody is feeling confident for the day/iron out any difficulties or questions our team might be having. Having a quick coffee with everybody too is just good for team morale too.
Tip 5: utilise Cold Brew Concentrate for iced coffees
If you're using cold brew in the store, we recommend using cold brew concentrate for iced coffees. You can have this open on the bar and simply pour the serving into the cup and dilute as necessary with milk. This is a great way to speed up the drink preparation as you don't need to wait the usual 30 seconds for the espresso to brew and it helps the drink stay cold.
Tip 6: prepare liquid hot chocolate
It can be cumbersome to have to vigorously mix hot chocolate powder with milk during the busy periods. We've found the best way to make hot chocolate is to use a splash of cold milk first to make a paste, and then add the steamed milk to this. So we often prepare a large batch of this paste ahead of time, and then simply mix a serving with hot milk when a hot chocolate is ordered. Just make sure you are happy to prepare a new paste for when alternative milk orders come in, or keep on top of your allergen labelling in your cafe.
Tip 7: prioritise lots of communication amongst your team
Lastly, this one is the holy grail... communication is KEY. This doesn't just mean saying 'hi' to your team on the way in, but it also means keeping your team on top of any nuances to customers' orders (especially any allergens they might have) but also just letting them know if something has changed or you've made a mistake somewhere ASAP. Bad communication is so obvious to customers, they can smell bad vibes from miles away! So make sure your team mesh well together and encourage them to 'over communicate' if they seem like they aren't explaining much to each other. Even just mentioning there's a new docket or asking another team member if they need support are some great ways to make sure your team is working well together and the right orders are coming through.