Lately I’ve become a little bit obsessed with work flow and efficiency in coffee bars which has been driven by a few factors of various importance. Barista Comps are always a great way to learn about double/triple tasking and saving yourself 30 seconds. Anyone thats competed will know how organising workflow in a routine can help you appear busier, do more, reduce stress and save time. The same logic applies to coffee bars.
An organised bar not only works faster but also gives you a huge advantage in terms of customer service. Yes, the service will be better, that is a no-brainer, but people often overlook something very important about calm, controlled efficient workflow and thats the perception your customers develop of your business.
There’s a rule in the service industry called The Bleeding Bunny rule which is based on the logic that the more distressed you appear the more likely you are to be criticised by your customers. This is true worldwide and is born out of the fact that bleeding bunnies will always be preyed upon before their more able-bodied comrades. If you appear distressed, you are opening yourself up for attack regardless of how much you deserve it.
I’ve worked shifts at both extremes. I’ve had very few orders and been in an absolutely tizzy. Drinks made badly, orders misplaced, orders made twice, customers pissed off. I’ve also worked ridiculously busy shifts in a state of near zen. These occassions often bring with them very little conversation between co-workers. everyone knows where they are, where they’re going and how they’re getting there. The system is clear and there’s no need to discuss it. Customers have waited a long time for orders without even knowing it because everything seems effortless, purposeful and worth it.
In specialty coffee we have for the last few years been caught between a place where we want to impress our customers and the constraints placed upon us by having to deal with said customers. The more people that come the harder it is to wow them, but the less people that come the harder it is to stay open. Pete Williams that works with me at 3FE once quipped “wouldn’t it be amazing if we had loads of money and no customers. Think what we could achieve!”
The brew-bar in a modern specialty coffee bar is a great example of this. I’ve seen many set up that were successful from a taste/experience perspective but as the business owner in me becomes more outspoken I can only question the viability of the “brew bar” going forward. I think at 3FE we have just about found a balance but its perhaps been the most difficult aspect of what we do day-to-day.
The brew-bar has become the weapon of choice for specialty coffee shops and although I feel its value should be placed more in the marketing budget than in the Z-read analysis it’s striking that we have very little discussion about how we should make this podium of ours a little more financially viable. Profit is a filthy filthy word in this industry but its one we need to face up to if we’re going to gain the recognition that we so crave and workflow is the key to this in every aspect of finding success.
Carrying on the theme of feedback from last weeks post I thought it pertinent to skip the permission phase and skip straight to the meaty bit by posting some feedback online that sits nicely with this weeks theme of workflow.
I am however trusting that both interested parties, namely Marco (Paul Stack) and Barartza (Joyce Klassen), will forgive me going public on this one as both products do come out rather favourably and I know both as people who have no doubt already copped on to whatever it is I’ve discovered.
A few weeks back Joyce sent me an Essato to tinker with and gather feedback. The Essato for those of you that don’t know is an attachment base for Baratza’s grinders that allows you to set a target weight for ground coffee and then grind that specific amount for you at the touch of a button (there are actually 3 presets). It differs from grind-on-demand grinders I’ve encountered so far in that instead of correlating time and dose and managing the former with fingers crossed, the Essato goes straight to the point and promises you a specific dose every time. Importantly, it consistently delivers on this promise.
The Uber grinder creates the best grind profile I’ve encountered and thus is the tastiest tool to make your filter coffee with. When things aren’t too hectic you can weigh-grind-weigh and create more beautiful coffee than you can ever imagine. Lovely grinder, lovely grind profile, lovely coffee. Simples.
Then real life kicks in and the reality of weigh-grind-weigh (perhaps repeat?) will start to hack away at the time you have to satisfy your customers. The fact that you must stand by the grinder when you do this adds to the time you must commit and thus slows you down. Slowing you down on bar usually leads to you trying to speed yourself up which I guarantee will lead to mistakes, errors and angry customers. Its the twisted logic of the bar, never go as fast as you can, because you can’t.
So, back to the Essato. No, it doesn’t have the amazing grind profile of the Uber but what it does have is smarts. I hit one button and then concentrate on the other things like rinsing papers, arranging cutlery and talking to customers. When I’m ready I pick up the grounds dispenser and dose my filter.
On a busy bar its innovations like this that really contribute to enabling us to achieve real excellence on a consistent basis. In truth I know Marco are working on something to enable similar benefits in workflow but I shall not steal their thunder, this time.
The real point of this post though is a statement that popped into my head as I walked back from the till to my 18g ground dose that was waiting for me on the Esatto.
Workflow will trump grind profile in the vast majority of cups handed out.
I’m not sure everyone will agree with me but I would like to know where you stand on this and what you think;