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Cafe Management: Responsibilities and Essential Skills of a Great Cafe Manager

Marcel DeerAuthor

While café culture took a huge hit during the pandemic, coffee consumption hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, three out of four Americans drink coffee daily, and nearly half of them report consuming three or four cups a day. And now that life is more or less back to normal, coffee drinkers are again looking to get great coffee outside the home in places with great atmospheres and where they feel welcome and respected.

A great café needs a great manager, but what does that mean, exactly? In this article, we’ll look at the roles and responsibilities of a café manager as well as the key skills and qualities they should have. I’ll also share my top tips on how to succeed as a café manager in today’s competitive environment. So grab yourself a cup of your best brew and settle in for a quick read about what makes an excellent café manager.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The key responsibilities of a cafe manager

  • Essential skills needed for this role

  • Tips for cafe management success

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The Roles and Responsibilities of a Café Manager

Café managers’ roles and responsibilities can vary depending on the size of their cafés and whether they manage franchises or independent coffee houses. These are some of the roles and responsibilities they usually take on.

Hiring and staff management

In most cafés, it’s the manager’s job to recruit, hire, train, monitor, and manage staff, and if necessary, let them go. So they’re often HR, trainers, and management rolled into one. That may even include advertising for new positions if and when necessary. 

Inventory management and supplier coordination 

It’s the manager’s job to ensure that all supplies and equipment are fully stocked and ready. Even though staff may take stock regularly, it’s still the café manager’s responsibility to check and ensure that nothing ever runs out. They also communicate with suppliers or even do supply runs and make purchases themselves in the case of very small cafés. They create agreements and monitor delivery to make sure that everything runs smoothly. 

Financial management 

Servers, baristas, and cashiers may handle bills and payments from customers, but the overall management of the café’s finances is the responsibility of the café manager. This includes a lot more than just checking for errors in billing and monitoring cash in the register. The manager also has to handle bills from suppliers, rent, utilities, and all other expenses, ensuring everything is duly paid up to support the café’s day-to-day operations.

They also may need to keep an eye on the cafe’s bottom line by analyzing the financial statements. Cafe financial statements tie together daily operations with financial performance, providing critical context behind how a restaurant is actually doing while helping to alert restaurateurs to concerning or inefficient aspects of their business.

Marketing 

Unlike in large chain café franchises, in smaller cafés and independent coffee houses, marketing responsibilities usually fall to the manager. They’re responsible for creating a marketing plan that will attract customers and implementing that plan to get people through the door. Of course, they can hire a marketing agency to help them. This marketing can include promotions, events, and advertising to get the word out about the business.

Customer service 

While great foods and beverages can give customers great experiences, poor service can ruin the experience and chase customers away. Food Network chef Michael Symon says to keep your service excellent, 

“You’ve always got to work to your highest ability level. When times are great, and restaurants are jamming, that’s when some restaurants get sloppy and take things for granted. Never take things for granted.” 

The café manager is also responsible for responding to customer concerns and making sure they’re dealt with appropriately. By setting guidelines for service and monitoring and evaluating the staff, the manager can also ensure that fewer problems occur and set new protocols to improve things in the future.

Regulatory, safety, and legal compliance 

As establishments that serve food and beverages, cafés must adhere to strict rules regarding safety, accessibility, and, of course, cleanliness. The responsibility for monitoring compliance falls once again to the café manager, who should train staff in following regulations for hygiene and safety and make sure they’re being followed. Inspections for safety and hygiene are usually coordinated through the manager, and so is the preparation in advance of them.

Essential skills of a café manager 

A lot of different responsibilities fall to a café manager. In order to rise to the occasion and succeed in this demanding role, people with a specific mixture of traits are needed as managers. If you’re interested in a job as a café manager or you’re looking to hire the right person for the job, this is a list of the skills and experience that successful managers normally possess.

Leadership 

All the staff of a café will look to the manager for guidance, problem-solving, and as a model of how to behave and deliver service. Someone with strong leadership skills, then, is essential to the success of this kind of business. Café managers should be motivated but also know how to motivate their teams. They should have integrity and responsibility. But they should also have empathy and understanding of people in order to succeed in this service-oriented business.

Communication 

Cafés are social spaces. You can drink coffee anywhere, but people choose to visit cafés for service and to socialize. Knowing this, we can see why a great café manager needs to have strong social skills and excellent communication. They have to be able to communicate with customers effectively for marketing and when issues arise. They need to communicate effectively with other businesses, like suppliers and service providers. Naturally, they need to communicate effectively with their staff to maintain efficiency and workplace harmony.  

Organization 

Is it enough to be a great communicator and a strong leader? Not if you’re not also organized. Café managers need to manage their time effectively and that of their staff as well. They have to be able to arrange staff schedules, supply deliveries, cleaning, maintenance, and, of course, store hours. With someone at the helm who has great organization, a café simply has a much greater chance of success in today’s competitive market.

Problem-solving 

Customers will have complaints about products, service, or even atmosphere and hygiene. Staff will be late or absent from work. Suppliers will fail to make deliveries. A manager with great problem-solving skills can work under pressure to find solutions to these problems. But they can also work hard in advance to identify possible problems before they even happen and make changes to avoid them.

Understanding of the industry

It’s crucial that a café manager understands the food and beverage industry, and specifically the café industry. Managers from restaurants or bars may be able to bring their experience to this different role, but they’ll face an uphill battle if they don’t have any previous experience in this industry. Years of experience working with coffee and in cafés is, therefore, a huge advantage to anyone looking to become a café manager.

Tricks to being a successful cafe manager 

Build an outstanding company culture

To make your café succeed, it’s extremely useful to build up a positive and inclusive work environment that can make your staff feel secure and part of the team. It’s also helpful to give the staff input into how things are run, at least behind the scenes, to give them a sense of ownership of a part of your company culture. This will help you attract great staff and keep them happy and productive.

Create a great guest experience

In a café, great coffee is essential, but so is an outstanding experience for your customers. Build an atmosphere and create service that makes your customers feel welcome and wanted, and they’ll keep coming back for more. Any issues that come up should be dealt with appropriately and to the satisfaction of the customer so they don’t go away remembering a negative experience but one that was solved positively.

Stay up to date with staff training and cross-training

When you make changes to processes and policies, remember to give your staff new training in line with them. Cross-training your staff will help them learn how to do other jobs and create space for lateral movement in the café. This also helps them empathize with their teammates and be able to fill in different roles if needed.

Never stop learning 

Though coffee has been around for over 500 years, the café industry still continues to change and evolve. To stay ahead and relevant in this industry, it’s critical to stay current. Luckily, there are café management courses, certifications, workshops, and industry conferences available to help improve café managers’ skills and knowledge.

Great Café Managers

The best café managers understand their industry and have years of experience working in cafés. They hold the key skills and knowledge required to succeed and manage both the business and their staff team effectively. They’re also people who are comfortable with the multitude of roles and responsibilities that a café manager needs to take on. And once you get your hands on a great café manager, you’ll never want to let them go!

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