A New Ground: Cafe Management Today

By: AJ Beltis

6 Minute Read

Mar 19, 2018

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cafe management

It's almost comical to think about the way cafes and coffee shops were managed 50 years ago. Those small town coffee shops where Dad would go to get his cup and read the paper before he went to work are now few and far between. Instead, cafes operate in a competitive environment dominated by instantly recognizable market leaders. Without smart management, a cafe can easily be seen as just another brewhouse in the center of town on the way to a Dunkin' or a Starbucks.

It can cost north of a quarter of a million dollars to kickstart a cafe, which is an investment that shouldn't be wasted due to poor management. Essentially, the first ingredient to a thriving coffee shop is proper management. So what are the best ways to manage a cafe, and what are the most pressing misconceptions about cafe management?

Here are a few need to knows about successful cafe management.

Your Job is Never Over

Sure, aside from those super early mornings, the hours don't seem that bad. If you're there for the early shift, you could feasibly be out of your cafe by the afternoon if it's left in the right hands for the afternoon shift. But as with any business, any time not spent discovering ways to better your performance is an opportunity cost.

As a manager, you should always be staying in tune with industry trends, studying your market, reviewing your numbers, and contemplating strategies for growth. The frustrating part about this job is that it is never really over, and if you measure your performance solely by the amount of hours you're in the cafe, you probably aren't meeting your responsibilities to their fullest extent.

The sooner you realize and accept this, the better off you'll be as the manager for your cafe. Doing some simple data mining on your popular items and profit margins during off hours could give you the insight you need to grow your business, or even keep it from closing for good.

"The first ingredient to a thriving coffee shop is proper management." - AJ Beltis
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If You're Not Using Social Media, You're Doing Things Wrong

Ever wonder why your name gets spelled wrong on your Starbucks coffee? You tell the barista your name is "Marc with a C," and they then hand you a beverage with "Cark" scribbled on it with a Sharpie. Are they just trying to frustrate customers like poor Marc? Well, as it turns out, this is all part of an elaborate marketing and social media plan from Starbucks to increase presence on social media.

People love coffee, and people love social media. Finding a way for your cafe to capitalize on this could lead to a gold mine. This can be accomplished in one of two ways. First, you can do something like what Starbucks did - find a way to encourage customers to spread the word for you. By putting social media icons around your restaurant or finding a way to showcase your products or establishment online, more and more social media users will want to hop on the bandwagon and do the same.

Another way is to simply do it yourself. Dunkin' Donuts has proven to be incredibly active with their social media users. Below, you'll see they go above liking and retweeting a tweet to creating an individualized response to some of their mentions.


The best thing about social media management is that it's virtually costless and very simple. This practice doesn't need to be a core focus of your cafe, but checking into your accounts a few times a day takes virtually no time, yet can do wonders for your customer relations and your brand. Responding to these customer messages, interactions, and reviews gives your cafe a personal touch that makes you memorable for more than just your coffee. If a huge company like Dunkin' Donuts has time for those little interactions, surely you do as well!

Reward Programs Can be the Backbone of Your Business

There's a reason why both Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have introduced successful rewards programs in their establishments. You might be asking yourself why these enormous chains are willing to give away free coffee to millions of customers. For one, customers must work their way toward the free beverage, which immediately creates repeat customers who will keep trying to earn the next reward.

And how do they earn that reward? By spending more of their money at the coffee shop. Both Dunkin' and Starbucks run these programs through rechargeable gift cards, which lead to more frequent reloads (and of course more frequent purchases). This establishes that coveted level of loyalty on the customer's part with their repeat visits, which coffee shops in turn (affordably) reward with a freebie.

More and more restaurants are are introducing successful loyalty programs to reward their engaged customers. Your cafe can follow suit to build a strong support base of repeated and loyal customers who will promote your cafe to others in their lives.

Go Beyond the Coffee

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We will soon be living in a country with over 50,000 coffee shops. That's a lot of places to get caffeine. So what are you going to offer aside from coffee? In other words, what food do you have to compliment the drink?

No, I'm not suggesting you make a full transition to a bakery - but if you only offer coffee with minimal food options, you miss out on impulse buyers who may be in the mood to cheat on their diet.

If you take the time to develop an amazing cookie, muffin, donut, or bagel recipe, you now have something to draw customers in aside from your coffee. Why not give your customers something to munch on while they use your wifi? To shake things up, offer seasonal or limited time food items and display them on the counter to increase demand. Perhaps pumpkin spice muffins in the fall or peppermint cookies for the holiday season (which you can promote via email if you have their information from the rewards program mentioned earlier). Not only will making these changes keep you on your feet when it comes to modern cafe management trends, but it'll keep your customers excited about what else they can get from your cafe aside from a consistently great cup of coffee.

VIDEO CASE STUDY: Paris Creperie & Cafe

Cafe Management

As stressful as the job of cafe manager can seem sometimes, there are ways to ensure your work matters in making a name for your business. By always keeping your cafe in the back of your mind, establishing an engaging social media presence, incorporating a rewards program, and introducing stellar non-coffee creations, you can secure a well-managed cafe that will see repeat customers, happy employees, and a satisfied manager.

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