Creating workflow efficiency in your cafe

– By Jade Jennings, Training & Development Manager


There’s nothing like walking into a cafe and receiving genuine customer service. Whether it’s a greeting by floor staff as they juggle multiple plates, a head nod from a busy barista or a wave from the person behind the register directing you where to order.

That first interaction with our customers sets the tone for their experience and the best thing about this is it’s free. It won’t cost you a single thing. The biggest benefit of simple customer service (other than simply being a nice person!) is that it’s the first step to ensuring efficient workflow in your cafe.


No one likes lining up for their coffee, or even worse, joining the end of a very long queue with an ill-experienced staff member behind the register fumbling over orders.

This person is your first line of defense. They need to be fast, friendly and confident in their role. Most of the time they need to politely guide and ‘train’ customers how to order, especially if it’s their first time.

This station also has a flow on effect to the rest of the team, as such there are many ways this person can assist the barista:

  • Firstly, get the order right. Either repeat the order back to the customer or just be in the moment and actively listen. An incorrect order will cost you in time or even worse it could cost you repeat business.
  • If the register is close to the coffee machine, why not have this person write the order on the takeaway cup and then pass it to the barista? This is not only a great way to confirm the order, it’s also going to free up the barista who now doesn’t have to write on the lid to differentiate the coffees within the same order. It’s all there on the cup. No confusion.
  • Ask the customer if they would like sugar in their coffee (even though, yes, sugar is the new enemy and our coffee shouldn’t really need it!) This is not only a part of customer service, it also adds to efficiency. You’ll avoid the mess the customer leaves if they add their own sugar i.e.. spilled granules followed by a used teaspoon left on the table after stirring their coffee. You will also save time when the inevitable happens and the customer asks the barista (who is trying to keep it together while getting slammed) to add a sugar in their coffee.
  • Have the person behind the register add the sugar to the cup. In addition to writing the order on the takeaway cup, this is going to save the barista time and reduce overall coffee times.
  • This person also needs to act as a traffic controller. Ensuring the space in front of the register is not unnecessarily being blocked by people will keep line of sight and access clear for new customers. The best way around this is to politely let customers know where to pick up their order or create waiting spaces with seats. It sounds simple but customers can often be in their own world and unaware that they are in the way (I know I have been guilty of this while checking my phone for emails!)


I’m sure I’m not the only one who has worked with a machine hog; wanting to do it all on their own or pour all the coffees to get the credit for the latte art.

When you have two or more on the machine, you need to work as a team and there is nothing like working with someone who picks up from where you left off. Service is a dream and you get this buzz of adrenalin because you know you just smashed it!

If you’re the only one behind the machine, then be the mentor that you never had. Look out for that gun staff member on the floor and start teaching them things that are going to make your job easier. Maybe they could do all the cold drinks or teach them how to pour. They can start off with takeaways as they’re a little more forgiving, and then move onto dine-ins. Most of the time, they’re just standing there waiting to run coffees anyway so why not get them pouring while you steam the next jug? Remember, this end of service is where the bottle neck occurs so start thinking ahead.

The person on shots most of the time, is loving life. They feel like a gun loading handles and working their way through the dockets. But there’s no point if this person is solely focused on their own task and thinks they can walk away once all the bases are up.

This leaves the person on milk to:

  1. decipher the type of milk to steam;
  2. take the lid off the bottle;
  3. pour the milk into the correct size jug;
  4. purge;
  5. texture;
  6. purge;
  7. split;
  8. pour the coffee ensuring they retain the crema while politely answering the customer who has just asked for a sugar to be added to their coffee they ordered five minutes ago;
  9. place the coffee and jug down;
  10. grab a lid;
  11. write the order on the lid to differentiate it from all the other lattes as this has two sugars;
  12. place it into a takeaway tray; and
  13. call out the order over a sea of waiting customers.


Steaming milk and pouring is always going to take longer than loading handles, so sharing the workload is important. In between doing bases the person on shots can be lining up jugs with milk for the person steaming, as well as steaming a jug and pouring a coffee to help complete an order. Working as a team will see you fly through the dockets without unnecessary stress.


It’s not just the first interaction with our customer that’s important but it’s also and the final stages of their visit that are just a critical in ensuring they leave with the desired impression.

Your customers should never have the opportunity to leave without their table being cleared first. Not only does this mean your customers have sat there with dirty dishes in their way, but it now means that any new customers need to wait until this table is cleared which isn’t really leaving them with the best first impression.

When clearing plates, customers should always be asked if they would like another coffee, it’s not only an upsell but you have now just killed two birds with one stone – the key to efficiency!

Last but not least, just as you shouldn’t allow your customers to enter the venue without being greeted, they should never leave without being fare welled. It’s a simple thing but this is the final step to genuine customer service. In this day in age, when there is a new café opening every week, we simply can’t afford to let service standards slip. By having efficient workflow in your business and working as a team, the greatest return will always be your customers and hopefully with some friends!