The café industry is a fast moving and exciting place to work but it does require the owners to be on the ball in terms of what’s really happening in their business and how they should prepare for what might happen next. While there are a lot of factors that are outside of the control of the café owner like latte levies, changes to the vat rate etc, it makes most sense to focus on what’s working well and look at ways to improve the customer experience.
Know you numbers
A good handle on how your profit and loss account works is a key component of success. As ingredient prices are in a state of flux it is more important than ever to understand your gross margin percentage and how its changing. Keeping a basic accounting system up to date will spit these numbers out, so that you can arm yourself with the information to make properly informed decisions. Keeping on top of this, particularly after working in the café all day is not easy. Information that is 3 months old is interesting at best and does not help in making good quality decisions that are critical in understanding the direction and challenges the business faces.
Easily the biggest challenge café owners face is rostering staff. Engaged, motivated staff make life in the café a much more worthwhile experience for customers and staff. The key here is to understand the workflow of your business and what staff are needed to meet the demand, for example, is the café busier for just takeaway coffee before 9, or does breakfast really start to get going at 10? The trick then is to set up your shifts to get the right mix of staff serving the demand, with plenty of back up for plan B if plan A is undermined by sickness, resignations etc. It’s also worth looking at the blend of staff working the shift, pair up experienced with less experienced staff for informal mentoring and experiment with the different personality types within your team to see who gels well. Ultimately if the staff don’t enjoy the work or are too pressurised they won’t stay. Closing the café due to a lack of available staff has a disastrous impact on profitability in terms of food waste, customer loyalty and paying overheads that are still due whether the business is open or not.
Understanding workflow at the different times of the day and trying to work out the pressure points is the first port of call here. Getting customers served quickly and efficiently improves customer experience and reduces pressure on staff. Using technology such as use of QR codes for menu downloads, POS systems that send orders to the kitchen / barista really help. But simple changes to the menu or furniture layout can have a dramatic impact on efficiency.
Getting customers served quickly is the key here and this point is tied in closely with understanding efficiency, but it can also be enabled by changing the shift roster to increase flexibility for staff and can give the café the opportunity to open earlier or close later and matching the food and beverage offering to the capability at that time of day, for example coffee only before 8am.
Good use of social media, offers, discounts are important but delivering a great customer experience is key; this means serving a quality product that is value for money in a pleasant way and doing it consistently. If the customers enjoy the experience of coming into the business, then they’ll be back!
At Watermark Coffee, we have years of experience advising clients, if you would like to have a chat, then please drop us a line.