The How To Guide To Running a Cafe: Series Part 8

This is the eighth  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, part six here, and part seven here.  

This will be the last regular installment of this series. I’ll be back occasionally with new tutorials and guides, but will be wrapping up our weekly updates. If there’s a topic or idea you want to hear more about, please email me at


In this series, we’ve talked about a lot of café issues. From big ideas to small, I hope that leaders and business owners take away that they have a ton of control over the happenings of their shops. Great businesses don’t just happen, but require dedication, a keen eye, and a willingness to accept responsibility when things aren’t going so well.

While active and continued participation is important, it’s also key to remember that sometimes, you just have to keep it cool. Let things go sometimes, and keep your eye on the things that matter. In this last weekly iteration of my How To series, we’ll talk about some strategies to keep a level head and let things slide.

  1. Don’t know what to let slide? Sit on it for 24 hours.

If you’re unsure if something is a big deal, sit on it for a little bit. Don’t respond to mistakes or behaviors right when they happen ”you’re likely to overreact, and your baristas are likely to get flustered and feel attacked. Take a breather, write down your thoughts, and see if it matters the next day. Maybe you were livid about a closer forgetting to shut down a grouphead or you want to comment about the condiment cart not being as clean as you’d like it. It’s fine if you’re still thinking about these things the next day ”go ahead and mention it to your employee ”but if you’re not thinking about it the next day, it probably doesn’t matter. Don’t make an issue out of something that doesn’t have to be.

  1. Acknowledge that some rules will be broken.

Every café has a list of rules and behaviors that most bosses and owners would find unacceptable. Some of those rules are hard and fast, but inevitably, baristas will start to bend the ones that aren’t quite as rigid. Immediately, I think about the music a barista is allowed to play. I’ve never worked in a café where there wasn’t some sort of rule about music. And, of course, we broke that rule anytime we had a chance. If a boss was out of town or if it was closing and no one in charge was coming in, someone was bound to play a banned album or band as loudly as they could.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t still have rules on music or other small things ”in fact, these rules are important because I’d rather have a barista break a rule on music or some other small thing than break a huge rule like not showing up on time or not calling in when they’re sick. Small acts of rebellion are going to happen, and it’s key to identify which rules baristas are going to bend, and anticipate your response.

  1. Correct behaviors but forgive mistakes.

People forget things all the time. In task-oriented jobs like service work, that’s inevitable, and while a mistake like forgetting to set out towels for the opener or not restocking cups during shift change are annoying, most barista don’t mean to forget these tasks. So note if this slip is uncharacteristic of the person. If so, I’d let it slide.

If a barista continues to forget to do something, then you have an established behavior. Established behaviors  should be corrected, and are easy to show a barista since you have a demonstrated pattern that’s easy to point to. Once patterns emerge, not only can you talk to the person about the pattern, but you can probably identify a common factor that’s keeping your employee from doing these tasks. Perhaps closing has a lot of very specific things to do and your employee needs a list to check off, or maybe a barista is having trouble guessing the busy times of day and can’t anticipate when to brew coffee ”once you see it happen over and over, you can easily point it out and offer potential solutions as opposed to scolding someone.

And if none of those tips help, don’t sweat it. It’s all gonna be just fine.

Even though this weekly series is taking a hiatus, you’ll see another new weekly series from me starting next Saturday! Last year, I wrote a prep guide to ready new competitors for the United States Barista Championship, and this year, I’ll interview past competitors and find out what helped them get ready. From competing on the cheap to choosing a theme, our panel of experts will help you wade through the insanity that is barista competition.

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