The How To Guide To Running a Cafe: Series Part 7

This is the seventh installment of my How To series, where we talk about techniques and tips to help your cafe run smoothly.  If you want to explore this series, you can find  part one here, part two here, part three here, part four here, part five here, and part six here.  


If you’ve worked in a café, you’ve probably heard about the list of tried and true tips and methods that constitute ˜pre-closing.’ Pre-closing tasks are the things you can do while the store is technically still open, like sweeping the floor or restocking the condiment cart. Usually, counting a register isn’t one of those things.

However, there are a lot of things you can do to set up your register to ensure that it doesn’t take you forever to do. Counting a register quickly and efficiently is a skill I take for granted as a given, but as I work with more baristas new to customer service, I realize that it’s not entirely intuitive, and can be intimidating. It can be especially so if you don’t think about how to set up your registers in a way that’ll make counting easy and quick. So here are a few tips on how to set up and count a register fast and without mistake.

  1. Pre-close your register

Pre-closing your register means making sure your register is as shut down and tight as it possibly can be. Sometimes, this requires constant upkeep. For example, if you’re low on quarters, take a spare moment to check the tip jar and change out some quarters instead of unraveling a new roll. If you have more than any denomination of coin that can fit into a roll ($10 for quarters, $5 for dimes, etc ¦) go ahead and put them in change rollers now. Counting $27 in quarters or $18 in dimes is bound to slow you down.

Pre-closing your register also means making sure your register is stocked now with the bills it needs. If you have a changebag or a place where you make bigger bills smaller (change out twenties for fives and tens), do that while you have a moment of down time. This should also be the time you double check your change bag is at the right amount it should be at.

  1. Bundle your bills

As part of pre-closing, you want to make sure that your money is as easy to count as possible. How do you do that? By having some of your money pre-counted already and put into bundles. Depending on how busy your café is, you can make bundles in any increments you’d like ”at my café, we do bundles of $20 for ones and $100 for fives and tens (no need to bundle twenties since we never get too many of those, but if you’re busy or cash-only, you might want to have a bundle amount for these guys too). With your money bundled, you’ll be able to count faster since most of your money had already been counted.

  1. Hold coins in your hands

Where I struggle most to count a register is with the change. Now, if you haven’t already rounded your prices to the nearest quarter, do that now. Regardless, people will still pay in dimes and nickels, so there will always be some in your register. So to count these, I’ll take the entire amount of whatever coin it is, hold it in my palm of my non-dominant hand with all the coins facing the same way (they should look like what a roll of change would look like but without the paper roll around it), and then count off each in a particular way, depending on what the change is (quarters are counted off in groups of four to make a dollar, so I’ll grab four at a time, dimes are in twos and so are nickels and pennies). Once I reach a whole dollar amount, I’ll stop and set the rest of the change on the counter. Anything in the register is my starting cash, and anything on the counter is part of my deposit.

  1. Begin with the starting cash, then count the deposit.

Usually, there’s a certain amount of money that stays in the register, either dubbed the starting cash or the bank, and that amount always stays the same. Count this amount first by taking everything out of the register, and then count them back into the register in this order: coins, ten, fives, singles, and then twenties if you need them. Ideally, you should have a healthy mix of all bills except twenties.

So now you have the bank in the register, everything that’s left is your deposit. Ideally, this in the largest bills you have (usually twenties and maybe some singles). Count that, and then check to make sure it matches your cash sales (if you have Square, that’s what it’ll show up as). If it does, then great! If not, you’ll have to work backwards to find the mistake (most mistakes I see are people incorrectly swapping money from the register to the changebag but if you followed the steps above, you would have already caught that mistake).

Usually what I’ll see baristas do is count the entire register, and then do a bunch of math to figure out what needs to stay in register and what needs to be deposited, and then essentially count both the register and the deposit again. I eliminate the first step, and then go backwards to catch mistakes (look at the deposit first, then the register).

The biggest lesson here is to have a method, or a way of counting the register you do the same way every time so you can execute quickly and know where to turn to catch mistakes.

I love talking about ways to make things efficient and easy in the café, but I’d love to hear from you guys now. If you have any suggestions or ideas, please submit them to

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