To manage workflow efficiently in your café, you don’t need to be a drill sergeant, shouting orders at the staff as if you’re facing battle conditions! Managing workflow is all about creating an effective structure and efficient operating systems. The goal is not simply to make coffee more quickly, but to do so while maintaining a high standard of quality.
Most cafés operate in roughly the same way, with customers walking through the door at random. The café could be absolutely pumping for 20 minutes, then crash back down to only a couple of customers. Capitalising on the busy times is critical, and an efficient workflow will help you to do this. But where do you start?!
It starts as soon as the customer walks through the door. At this stage, the aim is to acknowledge and serve the customer as quickly as possible. That means saying hello, sorting their order and getting the money into the till efficiently. This encourages customers to wait for their order away from the counter, freeing up space. People walking past will see that it’s easy to place an order, with no long queue at the service counter. Let’s face it, no one likes to wait!
This also frees up the barista to prepare coffee. Make sure your workstation is set up efficiently. Everything should be within arm’s reach of the barista. The grinder should be placed on the opposite side of the machine to the service area. A fully stocked fridge should be placed within arm’s reach of the steam wand. If you’re designing a new café, or modifying your café, always make sure that the sink and a rubbish bin are close to the machine. There’s nothing worse than walking across the shop to find the rubbish bin.
Now that you’ve sorted your workstation, take a look at your ordering system. Orders need to be placed in a well structured queue, not on scraps of paper that go flying around when someone walks past.
Always keep things flowing in one logical direction, from the grinder, through to the portafilters, to the steam wand and the service area at the end.
This way, one person can pull shots of coffee while another steams milk. If everyone knows how things flow, it’s easy for another staff member to jump in and help during a crazy busy spell — nobody needs an explanation of how things work. If you have two steam wands on your machine, never use the wand that is right next to the grinder. If it gets busy and you’re using this wand, the person who moves in to pull shots will have to work around you, which isn’t ideal.
With everything set up just right, things run smoothly. The shots person pulls shots into cups and places them in order on the bench, the person steaming milk finishes off the drinks and places them in the service area, ready for the waitperson to deliver. Simple!
The final thing to master is stock management. Running out of anything in the middle of a manic rush of customers will totally kill your flow.
Fill your grinder with coffee and your fridge with milk at the start of the day, and top up supplies during quiet periods. Don’t forget all of the other items you need. Make sure that you have plenty of takeaway cups and lids ready to go, and enough ceramic cups for table service. The general rule for ceramic cups is to have at least as many cups as there are seats in the café — more if the café fills up consistently.
Improving your café’s operating systems is an easy way to increase your efficiency and increase profits. By finding ways to make high quality coffee quickly, you’ll boost sales and give your business the chance to grow. Remember — it’s all about keeping people coming back!