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How to provide an incredible experience AND efficiency

St*rbucks dropped the ball

Hi there,


Okay – oh, good morning! – let's get to it.


Bloomberg issued a report recently about the big green mermaid coffee company stating that 8% of customers are waiting 15-30 minutes for their drinks!


In 2019, that number was 0%.


Oof. Talk about spilled milk 😵‍💫


The CEO stated that he wanted staff to be warm AND efficient.


Buuuuut, opening 380 new stores while cutting 29,000 jobs sure makes it hard to have room for warmth and customer care.


 The result?


Customers experience long wait times, making them unhappy and baristas have to speed through orders without a minute's rest or space for humanity, also making them unhappy.


Stores full of unhappy people on both sides of the counter does not a thriving business make.


Why spend time looking at what the giants are doing? Well, it can help independent specialty coffee shops position themselves as different, unique, and better.

Balancing efficiency and customer experience

First, I'm not opposed to efficiency – I believe thriving businesses need efficiency (hey, that's what I do at Turbo Logic!)


But, I've always said that coffee shop owners should aim to provide incredible customer experiences above all else. Efficiency should be balanced with customer experience, but not take precedence.


That means taking a haircut in some areas. However, when and where to let inefficiencies slide makes a big difference.


E.g. I made a black-and-white rule with my staff that they could comp up to $20 of items in any case of accident or mistake. A customer spills their drink at the table? No problem. No need for manager approval. Just ring it up, comp 100%, and deliver another drink to the customer.


Customer has a bad experience but has to go? Alright, ring them up a $20 gift card for next time. Give them a good reason to come back in for another chance.


And I praised my staff when they did this. Yes, it cost some money, but it was fast, efficient, gave great customer experiences (like the kind customers write reviews about!), and created long-time customers.

Ideas for coffee shop efficiency without sacrificing customer experience

Let's take a look at some areas of the coffee shop that can be made more efficient without sacrificing a wonderful customer experience – in fact, some of these will definitely ADD to the experience.


1. Menu Optimization

  • Simplify Choices: Offer a curated menu with fewer, high-quality options. This speeds up decision-making for customers and reduces preparation complexity. Read more.

  • Specials Rotation: Keep things fresh by rotating specials rather than expanding the permanent menu. This gives a sense of novelty without complicating the daily operations.


2. Optimize Layout and Workflow

  • Ergonomic Design: Arrange equipment and supplies to minimize movement for baristas. This speeds up service and reduces fatigue.

  • Clear Signage: Use clear, visible signs for ordering, pickup, and seating. This helps manage customer flow and reduces confusion.


3. Invest in Training and Staff Development

  • Cross-Training: Train staff to handle multiple roles, so they can step in where needed during busy times.

  • Efficiency Techniques: Teach baristas time-saving techniques and best practices for multitasking without compromising quality.


4. Utilize Technology

  • POS Systems: Implement a robust Point of Sale system that automates orders to the barista and/or kitchen without the cashier having to be involved.

  • Mobile Ordering: Offer a mobile app for pre-ordering and payments. This reduces in-store wait times and smooths out peak hour rushes.

  • Digital Loyalty Programs: Use digital loyalty cards to streamline rewards and reduce the clutter of physical cards.


5. Enhance Inventory Management

  • Automated Inventory: Use software to track inventory levels and predict needs based on sales patterns. This prevents overstocking and understocking.

  • Regular Audits: Conduct frequent but quick inventory audits to ensure accuracy and catch discrepancies early.


6. Efficient Staff Scheduling

  • Data-Driven Schedules: Use sales data to schedule more staff during peak times and fewer during slow periods.

  • On-Call Staff: Have a flexible system for on-call staff, like an assistant manager, who can step in during unexpected rushes.


7. Optimize Customer Flow

  • Designated Pick-Up Areas: Create a separate area for pick-ups to reduce congestion at the counter.

  • Queue Management: Use rope barriers or floor markers to manage lines and keep the flow orderly.


8. Smart Use of Equipment

  • High-Quality Machines: Invest in reliable, high-speed coffee machines that can handle peak demand without breaking down – don't use a consumer-grade machine, even for a low-volume cafe.

  • Regular Maintenance: Schedule regular maintenance for all equipment to prevent breakdowns and ensure smooth operation. Pay special attention to your espresso machine, it's the backbone of your coffee shop.


9. Pre-Preparation Strategies

  • Batch Preparation: Prepare certain items in bulk (like cold brew or mixed lemonades/teas) during off-peak hours to save time during rush periods.

  • Pre-Measured Ingredients: Measure out coffee grounds for your drip brewer and store them in airtight containers to speed up the brewing process.


10. Customer Engagement and Feedback

  • Feedback Systems: Implement easy ways for customers to give feedback, whether through digital surveys or suggestion boxes. Use this feedback to continually refine operations.

  • Transparent Communication: Let customers know about wait times, new systems, or any changes. Transparency builds trust and patience.

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