Tips for Managing a Coffee Shop: New Ideas for Your Cafe
Whether you just took on a new management role or want tools to help you excel in your current position, refining your management skills can positively impact your workplace.
This article provides a range of ideas designed to help you more effectively manage your specialty coffee shop. Specifically, these tips focus on four key aspects of your business: daily operations, customer relations, employee management, and inventory management.
Recommended: Read our full, in-depth How to Start a Coffee Shop Business guides, inspired by coffee professionals, they will help make your coffee dreams real, from sourcing beans to hiring baristas, choosing a POS system, forming an actual company, and everything in between.
- Taste Your Coffee With Your Employees. From espresso and drip coffee to manual brew beverages, tasting coffee with your staff can help your cafe maintain a high level of quality. This practice also engages your employees in a conversation about the product they sell.
- Ensure Adequate Staffing to Enable Breaks. You can more easily give employees regular breaks when you adequately staff your coffee shop. Scheduling overlapping shifts represents the best way to do this. By scheduling your “opener” to stay 30 minutes after your “closer” arrives, for example, you allow your middle shift employee to take a full lunch break without overwhelming other employees.
- Order Only the Food You Need for Each Day. Decrease food waste by ordering only what you anticipate selling on any given day. Track what you sell each day and then try ordering different amounts of food items, such as pastries, that typically only last one day until you find the optimal amount.
- Adjust the Mood. As the day progresses, adjust the mood of your cafe to accommodate an evening setting — especially if you serve alcohol after a certain time. You can easily do this by altering music choices, adjusting lighting, or even adding tablecloths for a classier look.
- Host a Happy Hour. Offering deals on drinks and snacks during a certain time of day can help you move pastries and other perishable food items while boosting sales during slower hours. This tactic can work well regardless of whether or not your business sells alcoholic beverages.
- Discount Day-Old Pastries. Half-price pastries can help you sell items that would otherwise go to waste while still enabling you to make a small profit. A smart POS system can let you discount items very easily. However, check with your wholesale baker to ensure you have permission to sell its products after the first 24 hours because that’s not always the case.
- Donate Leftover Food. Find a local shelter or food bank that accepts donations from restaurants and then donate your leftover pastries and other food items.
Pro Tip: Some charitable organizations also accept expired dairy products, such as milk. To reduce food waste, check with local shelters or food banks about donating your expired, but unspoiled dairy products that you can no longer serve in your cafe.
- Develop Strong Customer Relationships. This encourages your customers to return not only for your product, but also for your hospitality. Leading by example in this effort also promotes good customer service skills among your employees.
- Learn What Customers Want. Regulars are a coffee shop’s most important customers, and these reliable patrons typically will engage in a conversation about what they’d like to see in your business. Proactively solicit their input, carefully consider their suggestions, and implement them whenever possible and appropriate. Regularly study POS sales report to understand how the demand is moving.
- Make Your Cafe More Accessible. First, people from all walks of life enjoy coffee so make sure individuals with disabilities can easily access your cafe. Second, sharing your coffee knowledge with customers — and encouraging your employees to do the same — not only invites patrons to participate in your business, but also demonstrates inclusivity and the expertise needed to make a great cup of coffee.
- Conduct Coffee-Related Events. Engage your customers and your local coffee community with public events like cuppings, samplings, and latte art competitions. These events can help boost sales during slower periods while teaching customers about your product and giving them another positive experience in your establishment.
- Host Open Mic Events. Encourage your employees and customers to participate in open mic events focused on comedy, music, poetry, or some combination of them. Offer a drink special during these performances to encourage the community to come together to enjoy local artists and hang out in your cozy cafe. Adopt the best practice of requiring a drink minimum to ensure you gain enough profit to make these events worth the added labor.
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- Allow Employees to Find Their Own Replacements. Scheduling can prove challenging by itself, and finding replacements for employees seeking time off can feel like an impossible task. Luckily, empowering employees to find their own shift replacements provides an easy fix. This approach not only alleviates stress associated with your scheduling process, but also promotes personal responsibility among your team members.
- Hone Your Conflict Resolution Skills. Conflict resolution represents one of the most important aspects of your job as a manager. From internal conflicts to conflicts with customers, your ability to resolve issues as they happen directly impacts the success of your business. Look online or in your local area for workshops to help you build these skills.
- Foster Open Communication and Ongoing Employee Training. Training employees to do their jobs to the best of their ability creates a positive work environment. It also encourages them to stay in their position longer because they feel more confident in their role. Conduct regular check-in meetings with your team members in which you encourage open discussion about how they can best do the job at hand. This will ensure employees understand their role while helping them brush up on job skills that may fall by the wayside after their initial training.
- Conduct a Specialty Drink Contest. Engage your staff in building a strong, seasonal menu for your cafe by holding a specialty drink contest. Use this competition to challenge employees to create tasty seasonal drinks and then feature the winner on your menu. Contests like these not only boost employee engagement, but also give your team members an opportunity to showcase their creativity — which can contribute to a more positive workplace.
- Hold Regular Staff Meetings. While you may feel tempted to conduct staff meetings infrequently given the amount of planning involved, they often deliver a range of benefits. For example, these meetings help improve internal staff communication and give employees a space to ask questions. They also provide an opportunity for you to share updates, expectations, and other important information with your entire team.
Recommended: Read our 8 Tips to Prevent a Toxic Work Environment in Your Cafe
- Track Wasted Coffee. Coffee tracking can help reduce waste while ensuring your shop always has an adequate supply to function properly. Examples of such waste include expired bags of coffee, coffee grounds wasted while dialing espresso, and any unsold drip coffee at closing time. Either develop your own system to track waste or keep a chart of orders, drinks sold in a day, and waste. A smart POS system can easily keep track of your inventory and save you hours of hassles.
- Stock Popular — Not All — Milk Alternatives. Ask your customers which milk alternatives they’d like to see in your shop and adjust your menu, as appropriate. Always conduct a taste test of each new milk with your coffee before you place an order to ensure it pairs well with your product. Because stocking every new milk alternative can soon overwhelm any manager, stick with just the most popular options based on customer input.
- Offer Decaf as a Manual Brew Beverage. By only offering decaffeinated coffee as a manual brew method instead of as a drip coffee, you can reduce waste while highlighting the flavorful notes in your decaf beans. For more information on read our guide on which manual brew methods will work best for your cafe.
- Sell Bagged Coffee Faster With Weekly Deals. Before your weekly coffee delivery, encourage customers to buy your older bags of beans by offering some sort of deal. For example, you could offer a free coffee with the purchase of a bag of beans. These deals typically work best just before a weekend when customers want to stock up for the cozy mornings ahead.
- Color-Code Products by Expiration Date. Organize items with a longer shelf life, such as syrups, milk alternatives, and chocolate, using different colors so employees can easily spot the products they should use first.
Looking for more information about how to operate a successful specialty coffee shop? Check out these other helpful articles and guides to make running your business a breeze.