Archive for September, 2009

Another bear…

yes I know we have shown this before but it’s just so good!

Did a really fun one-on-one barista course today and we had a bit of fun with latte art at the end.


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Just came across a great online program that is great for designing a shop layout. It’s all free and can be really useful.

Have a look at:


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Counter or table service

Many coffee shops will go automatically for a counter service in their coffee shop. It is often seen as the standard, especially for the high street where it is expected to be busy. Counter service is seen as quicker and easier and often people think that it requires less staff compared to table service.

The truth is however that it has a lot of downsides compared to table service. There is often a lot of pressure in the queue for the customer and the barista example. Many times a customer will order just a coffee because he or she is holding up the queue. The menu and offerings can be a little overwhelming in a short space of time and because of the pressure of the queue the customer orders a lot less than originally planned. Counter service usually gives you less takings compared to table service. You probably won’t agree but lets have a look at the practical side of things.

With counter service the pressure on the barista can be hard when there is a queue. We believe strongly that the espresso machine and the barista should be easily visible by the customer in any kind of coffee shop. This does mean however that many people in the queue will watch the barista make coffee. Sometimes this can stress the barista so much that the quality of the drinks served are dropping. Drinks are being rushed and the customer who has been waiting extra long now get’s a less tasty drink than when its quiet. There is nothing worse then waiting extra long and receiving something less good.

The layout of the coffee shop has to be designed around the counter service as well. Your customers should queue along all your products which means that pretty much all your sandwiches, cakes and confectionery should be on display. People will spend more when they can see the products in front of them so you have to design the counter around this thought.
The counter can therefore take up a big space of the coffee shop, space which could be filled with extra tables and chairs giving you higher takings.

A counter with a long queue might make people decide to not enter your coffee shop; sure it is great to look busy and successful although you can also look too busy and lose sales. If everybody that was in the queue was sitting down then your shop would still look busy yet there wouldn’t be any long queues and as long as there is space people would probably come in to the shop more likely.

When people are sitting down  for a minute waiting to be served they can have the time to acclimatise to the shop and have a good look at your menu. This will make them feel relaxed and when people are relaxed and have the time to look at your menu they will spend a lot more money; and more importantly they will order what they planned on having in the first place. Of course it is important to acknowledge the customer once they sit down and to let them know you will be with them shortly to take their order.
This is also where table service is so much more personal. There is one host walking around and as soon as customers walk into your shop they are being greeted and welcomed. With counter service a customer might not be acknowledged by the staff until they have been in your shop for a full two minutes.

Many of our customers have table service for their coffee shop. When I speak to them and ask about the average spend of the customer I pretty much always hear of a higher spend compared to a counter service. With table service people often have a coffee and something else. Most counter service coffee shops have customers just drinking coffee. A customer who just drinks one coffee in a busy coffee shop and sits for a full hour could cost your dearly.

Table service allows you to turn tables over quicker as well. If you are busy and need some tables free then table service is fantastic. It is much easier to talk with a customer to see if they would like anything else. If not, then the bill comes a minute later. This is usually enough for people to realise that a table is needed. In the end, table service simply turns over tables so much quicker and turning tables over quickly is extremely important when the shop is full.

Table service will give the customer the chance to order something else. Once a customer has paid for an order they are very unlikely to order and pay again for something else. With table service however the tap is still open and it is easy for the customer to order another coffee. The great thing with table service is that it increases the average spend.
Because the tap is open and the host talks to the customer, it is easier to upsell and to receive some feedback on the products.

Some might argue that take-out doesn’t work very well with table service and I would agree. Although there are ways around it. You could have a little take out counter area where customers could be served for take out only. You could even have a hatch which is designed for take outs only. Take out service is a little harder with table service but then again, most people think they offer a lot more take out then they actually do.

Another downside of table service could be that the customer is not seeing the coffee being made. We believe that making coffee is an art and can be a great show (think of latte art for example). With table service you might lose this a little. A great way around this is to have the espresso machine inside the serving area, not behind the counter. This is a little controversial but it could be fantastic if designed correctly. All you need is to place the espresso machine on the end of the counter/kitchen with the machine facing the inside of the shop. Place it so that anybody in the coffee shop can watch the barista make coffee. Of course you have to consider safety options here.
If you do it right then it might even invite customers to have a chat with the barista about coffee. A simple sign saying ‘Feel free to have a chat with the barista about coffee’ might please those customers who would like to know more.
It is different but different can be great!
And of course it would really help the flow. Coffees don’t have to travel far to the tables and if you position the dishwasher right behind the espresso machine (out of view) than washing up cups and placing them back on the top of the machine is easy. Don’t forget how important this is as it can really slow things down when the dishwasher is in the wrong place.

Some people will argue that table service needs more staff. I would disagree. You will find that this isn’t the case if you have a good layout. If you design the counter so that even the host (the person waiting the tables) can make coffee, reach for cakes, muffins etc. then you can really speed things up. You could have a till that spins around so the host can always reach it from inside the serving area. The cakes are all on display for the host to reach. In the end, you would need someone at the till anyway which can now be the host. With a bit of planning you could run the shop with 3 people.

And if you are really clever and design the shop carefully then you might even be able to have both counter service and table service available. You could have the espresso machine on a rotating disc so it can turn around for table or counter service. The same goes for the till. It may sound crazy but I am sure you can do it with a little planning and thinking ahead.

It is all about making it work for you. The goal is to make your customer feel at ease, spend as much money as possible and optimise customer flow as much as possible. And of course, to serve delicious coffee!

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What a great video! If only everybody would love making coffee like this.

This reminds me a little of putting some green coffee over a barbecue once. Not quite the same taste as a properly roasted coffee but you can’t beat this for love for coffee.

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Stephen came back to us today. He joined a barista course with us 6 months ago and came back today for some latte art training. He brought his Italian machine in and I thought it would be fun to see what happens when an engineer gets into coffee 🙂

Stephen is a lovely gentleman, makes fantastic coffee and pours rosetta on all his drinks for friends and family.

He adapted his machine by adding a temperature probe into the group head! I think it just made him more frustrating with the brewing temperature control. But very cool to see such a passionate person and an honour to teach him!

Stephen's machine with his custom made temperature probe

Stephen's machine with his custom made temperature probe

Close up of the temperature probe

Close up of the temperature probe

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We are organising an in-house latte art competition with one of our customers. I think this is an absolutely fantastic idea! What a great way to boost the staff into making coffee, there is just no better way.

Of course I feel honoured to be one of the judges. I have put together an example of how you could do such an in-house competition. My idea is just an example, I hope it helps people with organising their own competitions.

You can find a link here to the word document.



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I totally understand that coffee bar owners want consistency for their drinks. The question is however, how far do you take it? Automatic espresso machine + automatic milk frother + automatic grinder + automatic tamper = too automatic? Isn’t this close to a bean to cup machine?

How are the baristas supposed to get passionate about the drinks they serve when the equipment does everything? How are the customers supposed to get excited about the drinks?

I saw this post on a blog I follow.

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