Are you operating a successful coffee shop? Can you say so with certainty? Regardless of your answer, every business could use some shoring up in different areas. With so many facets of operating a business, you could always use some tips in making it easier to run your coffee shop as smooth, and profitable, as possible.
The Five Hacks to keep your coffee shop running smoothly are: Focus on improving efficiency, make tech work for you, passively drive income, ergonomic layout, and making more out of less.
Hack #1 – Doing Less is Doing More
As a small business owner, you are often tasked with a list of untold lengths daily. Not only are you operating the business side of things (finance, accounting, procurement, payroll, the list goes on!) but also interacting with guests as well as teaching and working with employees. With so many things constantly requiring your attention it’s easy to get bogged down in the thick of your list. There are two rules that I always keep in mind when thinking about productivity and efficiency. These are as follows:
The 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto principle, is the idea that 80% of all output is due to 20% of all input. This principle can be utilized in a multitude of ways to help you and your business run more efficiently. Here Are some examples of the 80/20 rule at work.
80% of your coffee shop’s output is produced by 20% of your employees.
80% of your success comes from 20% of your ideas.
80% of your repeat business results from 20% of your guests.
80% of sales come from 20% of your products. (This will be important for later!)
80% of your weekly tasks affect 20% of your business’s future.
Keeping these ideas in mind will allow you to put down a task that is unnecessarily putting you “in the weeds” and allow you to have peace of mind in moving on to tasks that will make a difference in your day. This is a great segway into my next rule governing productivity; the two-minute rule. The two-minute rule is the idea that we often procrastinate from doing tasks that aren’t difficult and that we could actually get done quickly and move on. There are two parts to this rule.
- Part 1 – If it takes less than two minutes, get it done now! Send that email. Complete payroll. Teach your new employee how to make an espresso. Just do it.
- Part 2 – It only takes two minutes to start a new goal. To learn to account, take two minutes to look at your balance sheets. To increase your business, take two minutes to get to know one of your guests. Soon you’ll find yourself doing more of these tasks without even realizing it.
Hack #2 – Make Tech the
Employee of the Month
In this day and age, we live in a tech-driven society. Just because you own a coffee shop doesn’t mean this fact doesn’t apply to you as well. Make technology work for you and your needs just like any other employee at your coffee shop. Listed here are five great ways to incorporate tech to help your coffee shop run more smoothly.
Communication Tools – Yes, everyone has their “work” group chat text message that does work in a way that a camp fireworks to cook food. In recent years, there have been so many applications that have come out that make communicating more efficient and more fun. Apps like Zoom, Slack, and HouseParty, not only allow for remote meeting places but can also help to organize group conversations into projects.
Thermal Printers – Agreed, not exciting. But this simple tech hack can save you an exponential amount of money on ink over the life of your business. Who doesn’t like saving money?
Business Analytics – Luckily, this is a free service for most. Nowadays, every POS (point-of-sale) software available also allows for product mix tracking, average sales per given day, and other helpful tools that aid in forecasting sales and product usage.
Cloud Systems – Keep your data here. Worry-free without boundaries or limits.
Staffing Assistance – As a business owner, staffing your coffee shop will, at times, be your biggest challenge. Let job posting sites staff your coffee shop for you. Let their algorithms find perfect candidates based on your needs and company culture.
Hack #3 – Passively Drive Income
Believe it or not, there are ways to passively drive your business that don’t involve marketing dollars or gimmicks to bring people into your coffee shop. This hack actually involves getting people to leave rather than getting them to stay. This idea is a two-fold plan to increase business without increasing effort.
The first part of this idea involves the amenities offered at your coffee shop. Many coffee shops try to lure people in with free wifi, comfortable couches, armchairs, and outlets to plug in their devices. This results in attracting guests that purchase a single coffee and sit down for hours using the free wifi without affecting the bottom line. Forgo the free wifi and extra amenities that cost your business money without the return on investment and, instead, build a homey feeling ambiance. Guests will still feel welcome without negatively affecting your bottom line.
The second part of this idea builds upon the initial premise. Promote a takeaway business. Getting guests in and out quickly will not only create a great reputation of expediency but will also allow you to minimize the time spent waiting on and cleaning up after guests sitting in your coffee shop.
Check out our list of unique coffee shop ideas HERE!
Hack #4 – Ergonomic Layout
When most small hospitality businesses startup, they often pick up in an existing building right where the last tenant left off. This means that wherever things were before is probably where everything is now when you’ve opened your doors. Break the cycle! Work the space to its fullest potential to make it work for you.
Think of how you can layout the front of your coffee shop to guide guests progressively from the door to the counter, through the line, and either out the door or into a seat.
This goes for the back working space as well. Your baristas should be able to complete their specific tasks mostly while standing in place because of how space is laid out for them. High volume sales are key to any business’s success; workspace efficiency is what makes that possible.
Start by arranging the equipment so that it makes sense in a linear flow then follow up with where small wares and products that are used during production are kept. Finally, work the space yourself. See how it feels and if it makes sense to work within how space is set up. This simple execution of an ergonomic layout will make a big difference. For a more in-depth look at the ergonomic workspace, check out this article by Forbes.
Hack #5 – Narrow the Selection
How often have you walked into a coffee shop to find a menu on the wall that is literally ten feet tall and six feet wide! Every drink ever made with coffee is listed along with every ingredient ever added to one. This is unnecessary. Cover your bases with a small, yet curated, list of coffees and a shortlist of high-quality ingredients to go along with them. Your guests will appreciate the concise menu and your employees won’t get behind rummaging through a laundry list of different kinds of milk.
Keeping the menu an appropriate size also has its financial benefits. Having fewer items allows you to better keep track of inventory and stay on top of purchases. Over-ordering and under-ordering plagues many hospitality businesses both mentally and financially. Don’t be one of them!
Having a shortened, fine-tuned menu will also allow you to batch drinks for use during times of higher volume and allow for greater ease of output with less input (back to the 80/20 rule). Batching involves premixing or staging items that are your highest sellers ultimately making the required execution time almost zero during the busiest times of the day. Maximize efficiency and minimize wasted time and product.
There you have it! Five simple hacks to help make your coffee shop run more smoothly. Following these tips will increase efficiency and income with the least amount of work involved. Who knew it could be so easy.
Frequently Asked Questions
If guests are constantly asking if you have one thing or another, your menu is too small. If you find people staring at the menu for more than a minute or two then you probably have an oversized menu. Generally, around 15 items total is a small business sweet spot.
One of the best and most simple ways to gain a guest, believe it or not, is a punch card. Giving them a couple of extra punches the day they get it is of no consequence to you but will mean a whole lot to your newest guest when they get their free coffee on their second or third visit. Instantly hooked
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun
My adventure in coffee began when I first launched my first coffee shop back in the early 2000s. I had to figure out so many things on my own and to make it worse within 2 years of opening two large corporate coffee chains moved in just blocks away from me!
As I saw smaller and even some larger coffee shops in the neighborhood slowly lose customers to these giant coffee chains and slowly close up shop, I knew that I had to start getting creative…or go out of business.
I (like you may be) knew the coffee industry well. I could make the best latte art around and the foam on my caps was the fluffiest you have ever seen. I even had the best state-of-the-art 2 group digital Nuova Simonelli machine money could buy. But I knew that these things alone would not be enough to lure customers away from the name brand established coffee shops.
Eventually, through lots of trial and error as well as perseverance and creativity I did find a way to not only survive but also thrive in the coffee/espresso industry even while those corporate coffee chains stayed put. During those years I learned to adapt and always faced new challenges. It was not always easy, however, in the end, I was the sole survivor independent coffee shop within a 10-mile radius of my location. Just two corporate coffee chains and I were left after that year. All told the corporate coffee chains took down over 15 small independent coffee shops and kiosks and I was the last one standing and thriving.
Along the years I meet others with the same passion for coffee and I quickly learned that it is not only “how good a barista is” that makes a coffee shop successful, but the business side of coffee as well.
Hence why I started this website you are on now. To provide the tools and resources for up and coming coffee shop owners to gain that vital insight and knowledge on how to start a coffee shop successfully.
Stick around, browse through my helpful blog and resources and enjoy your stay! With lots of LATTE LOVE!