Sean Edwards – Managing Director, Café Culture International
Covid 19 has created some dramatic business effects on lots of cafés, but some of those aren’t all that bad.
We have seen some big changes to coffee and takeaway systems that have increased sales, I have looked at what some of these positive changes are and have listed them to assist other operators from these successful models.
First step in getting your business pumping again is to get yourself in the right headspace.
The biggest challenge to a successful business is you and looking at future opportunities – forward movement.
The media doesn’t help much, so switch off the Covid news at 6pm and use that hour for some positive thoughts before dinner and recap on how you can do things better for yourself, family and employees.
I like to have a list and do two or three new positive jobs a day, ticking them off when completed.
Where to start!
Many cafés at the start of Covid, when they found out they could not continue operating their dine-in option, jumped on social media and promoted their takeaway business models.
Most customers did not want to see their local café fold, so they also helped spread the word on their networks. Many suburbs and towns formed Facebook groups supporting local eats.
The smart operators quickly advertised their menus, opening times and specials. I have also seen a lot of cafés starting to use pay-it-forward options, as well as a credit system for coffee orders and food which helped with cashflow.
If you don’t have a social media page it is doing your business harm, it’s time to get a bit technical and get on the bus. Just ask any 12 year old and they will do it for you!
It’s also good to have a cause, to have an ethos, something that drives you and your business daily. Making money is an important aspect of business, but it does not give you the reason you went into business for yourself.
Remember back to what drove you to take the risk of doing it alone, your passion for business.
I love to use coffee as my driving marketing force, as people are still discovering this journey and it’s something you can discuss daily with your customers. After all, it is their motivation for their morning visit.
Having a good fast coffee output is all about workflow. Look at the takeaway system on your coffee bar, make sure it is directional and flows freely. Don’t work yourself into a corner, the workflow needs an in and an out.
It is also time to automate and put in time saving equipment like Puqpress to take away inconsistent tamping and injury.
Look at milk systems with delivery and foaming options. Dispenser systems with compact bladder options removes milk bottle storage issues and also speeds up service by not having to open and close a milk bottle.
Milk steaming systems work very well now, with almost perfect texture and temperature control and again create consistency. Remember 95% of your coffees sold are milk based.
Grinding is an area barista’s normally struggle with, so using auto dosing grinders for barista consistency is much better and will also control waste loss.
I have been pretty anti automatic espresso machine, but in the last few years there has been an amazing improvement in this area. Automatic systems have more control now and you can get a fairly good extraction in the right brewing time.
Autos have their place and can save on labour costs.
Training should never cease in your business. Don’t rely on a handful of skillful staff, keep newbies coming through your business constantly. Train on your own systems for better workflow and consistency.
Latte art is a must now and all drinks presented should show the love, as customers expect this. I also believe baristas need to know the basics of machine maintenance, like being able to change a group seal, a filter and replace a shower screen.
Grinder maintenance should also be taught, and every barista needs to know how to unblock and adjust a grinder as this is their main tool.
Know what’s in the Hopper:
If I am paying a barista good money, I want them to understand the coffee the same way a sommelier knows the taste of their wines. Coffee is very complex and has numerous taste profiles, so you have to be taught these.
Your coffee roaster loves their beans, so get the barista and roaster together to chat about the origins, the flavour notes, best extraction formula time, weight and temperature.
If you get a barista who cares about these things, it will translate directly to the customer. You, the café owner also needs to understand these fundamentals and realise it’s not about how much a kilo you a paying.
The few extra dollars you think you are saving, normally goes on the floor in excess grinds or test shots when the barista is adjusting the grinder at the start of the day.
Customer service is the simplest part of the business. It’s about your customer and the friendship you have with them. Simple!
Remember their name, their order, their favourite topic, their sporting team and their birthday. For someone who spends $2k a year with you, they should be your best friend!
If your staff are unhappy at the front of house, send them to the back of house or packing, for a new job out of hospitality. You need to teach people customer service, it’s a skill taught by old people like us.
Don’t piss your customer off by not excepting their reusable cup. Take the time and wash it and let them go about saving the environment – there is no hygiene law saying we can’t use them, it’s all a big rumour.
Café owners don’t recruit well. I am saying this as I am always the one getting asked by café owners if I know any good people.
Hospitality is good money, so recruit like a corporate business does. Advertise, ask for resumes, do interviews and reference checks.
I would also like to see employment contracts put in place that cover all the bases like behaviour, social media policy, pay rates, dispute procedures.
Most local business chambers can help with this, it is a free service. We all agree you need to create good coffee professionals, but some prior knowledge is a plus, so a good recruitment process is a must.
Follow industry trends:
Selling coffee is a skill and often the main motivation why a customer will visit your café is for a well-made coffee by a skilled barista.
If you have lots of customers coming through your business, you now have the opportunity to upsell other products. The café industry is built on current trends so there are always new opportunities to sell stuff.
Obvious add-on products in cafés are food items and other café beverages. If you follow Instagram, you will quickly discover what’s on trend in the café industry.
I hope these tips can help you navigate into a profitable future. There are lots of opportunities now as Australians are visiting their own country, so $40 billion is staying at home and not getting spent on river canal cruises on the Rhine.
Every day make a little change and give yourself a month to review the project.
Have fun pumping those kilos out the gate.