For most of us in the coffee industry, whether we work in a hut or a traditional cafe, we are concerned with good bar flow. It's something that is expected and yet rarely discussed. Fresh Cup Magazine gives a few tips to help keep your customers happy, your drinks delicious, and your bar clean.
Tip 1: CHECK YOUR WAIT TIME
How long does it take for a customer to get from the back of the line to the front of the line? Most customers are perfectly fine waiting 3-5 minutes for their morning cup when they know it'll be good coffee, however, if your wait time exceeds the typical 5 min and customers are not getting a consistent taste, it may be time to check your process. Fresh Cup writer Caleb Peterson says, "it takes around 25 seconds for a shot to extract, about 15 seconds for 12 oz of milk to be steamed, and approximately 30 seconds for the coffee to be ground, dosed, and tamped." He makes the point that these are the time restraints you deal with when making a traditional latte, however, add in the time it takes to do the other parts of the process (like take an order, get the milk, wipe your bar, and take your customer’s money) and you've got about 5 minutes worth of time for one customer. While 5 minutes is not the standard, it’s certainly a practical time to shoot for.
Tip 2: PARTING WORDS
It's easy to send a customer away with just their coffee, but what really sets a place of business apart is their salutation. Are you sending your customer away with a good feeling that makes them want to come back? The easiest way to do this is for Barista's to come up with their own saying, (or for bosses to implement one) that communicates to the customer you would love to see them again. Some examples are "Thanks for coming, please come again."; "We're glad you came, see you later!"; or even just a simple, "Have a great day."
Tip 3: PUT ON A SHOW
If you have the luxury of working in a space where your customers can see what you're doing, give them something entertaining to watch while they wait. Most of us will agree that, as a customer, we'd be much more apt to forget the time spent waiting if we had something fun to distract us. If you can't show your customers how you’re making their drink, try talking to them while they wait. In the end, the customer will feel like he or she is a valued part of your business and will be more likely to return as a "regular".
Tip 4: WIPE, WIPE, WIPE
The worst thing to see in a cafe is dirty counters. Why? Because that means that your drink is more than likely going to have dirt, or espresso grounds, or something else unpleasant in it. As a Barista, it’s good to be a little “OCD” about your counter tops and their appearance. Wipe the grounds, the spills, and anything else that get's smeared on its surface. Be sure to always purge and wipe your steam wands too. It may seem silly to mention since its one of the Barista's 10 Commandments, but you'd be surprised how often a shop gets busy and that wand is left with milk caked on it.
The most important thing to remember is that whether you own the cafe or not, its cleanliness, friendliness, and overall experience in the customer's eye will reflect directly back on you. Take a look at your day to day practices and implement these four tips if you haven't already.
Peterson, Caleb. Blending quality and speed behind the bar. Fresh Cup Magazine. August 2011. Pages: 46-50. Print