10 Tips for Running a Successful Coffee Shop
Author: Jason Rahm
At the base level, a coffee shop is just like any other business. If you do not manage it properly, it won't be successful. However, since coffee shops can be both a quick in-n-out business and an all-day study hall, managers and owners have to create both comfortable and efficient environment while keeping coffee quality and service top notch. Running the gamut from quick-service establishment to lounge can be difficult, but there are several things managers can do to assure success.
- Love what you do. The best thing that managers or owners of a coffee shop can do is love their job. David Boyan, the owner of Caffe Sonara, explains this feeling. “The old cliché about ‘love what you do and you will never work a day in your life’ is true. There’s rarely times when I’m dreading coming to work.” When the owner is that passionate about his job, employees and customers will pick up on that enthusiasm and excitement. This makes the overall coffee experience more enjoyable for everyone.
- Train employees to be helpful, knowledgeable and courteous. Helpful and courteous employees will make customers feel welcome, and since some people might not know a lot about coffee, knowledgeable baristas will be able to help customers make a more informed decision. At Mile High Coffee in Denver, CO, the baristas spend a few minutes chatting with indecisive customers to determine what their taste preferences are and recommend blends they will like.
- Become a WiFi hotspot. Coffee shops were probably one of the first businesses to offer WiFi to customers, because students or writers go to coffee shops to study or otherwise work on their laptops. Providing free internet to paying customers will encourage anybody with a laptop or smartphone to spend more time in your coffee shop browsing the internet while sipping coffee.
- Create a comfortable environment. Terri Meehan, owner of Wash Perk in Denver, says, "There are a lot of illusions about what it’s like to make coffee, and it’s more than being a good barista and making good drinks. It’s making good drinks and providing a comfortable, clean environment." Elements of comfort can be incorporated into every aspect of the coffee shop’s décor. You can hang paintings on the wall, play relaxing music and have cushy couches or lounge chairs around a coffee table.
- Offer food. Sure, a lot of people only go to coffee shops for their morning cup o’ joe, but some customers want a more balanced breakfast; croissants, breakfast sandwiches or other small breakfast items are the way to go. Also, providing lunch caters to those who want a place to eat and guests that want to study, read or otherwise hang out in the coffee shop for several hours.
- Have a separate order line for specialty coffee drinks. Running a coffee shop means being speedy as well as efficient, and one thing that causes a huge bottleneck during rush hours in a coffee shop is people ordering custom coffee drinks. It can cause customers who just want drip coffee to become agitated and potentially even leave, so separating the lines is a way to keep both specialty and drip coffee flowing smoothly.
- Play music or provide entertainment. Hosting local bands or poetry readings is a standard for a lot of coffee shops. Others just have music (usually easy-listening genres) playing through the speakers. Regardless of whether guests want to linger or not, music adds to the ambiance and creates a more inviting and enjoyable environment.
- Display local art. Artwork is something anybody can enjoy while drinking their coffee or waiting in line. The artists can even put a small price tag on their works, should somebody be interested in buying. This enhances the environment and lets customers know that you are supporting the local community, which is always a good business practice.
- Offer discounts for customers who bring their own cup. A five or ten cent discount on coffee for someone who brings in a reusable cup will reduce waste and will encourage customers to come back to your coffee shop, with cup in hand, to get the discount. You can even sell reusable cups with your logo on them.
- Hold cupping sessions for baristas. A cupping session is like a wine tasting, for coffee. Cupping sessions train employees to describe the flavors of coffee and understand how every blend should taste. And, as Mark Overly, owner of Kaladi Brothers explains, cupping sessions are crucial to making good coffee. “If you don’t know what [the coffee] is supposed to taste like, you don’t know when it’s wrong.”
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