Whatever you think of their quality, the big guys have one thing on lockdown: convenience. The hard truth for independent cafes is that no matter how good the quality, many regular customers will eventually give in to convenience. So don’t make them choose - here’s some practical ways to give them indie quality with fast food efficiency…

1. Make machines your friend

Commercial equipment seems expensive when you can buy a for a kettle at kmart for $7.50 (seriously, you can). For a business, the main benefit of commercial equipment is speed. Speed does two things for your business: 1) It means that you can make more product for every hour you spend on labour (reducing your costs) and 2) you can increase the number of sales you can make each hour - which is critical during peaks. There are the obvious time-savers (like a commercial dishwasher), here are some other pieces of cafe equipment that can help: Espresso Grinder: grinding to order is essential to get the best out of the coffee, but on a small, old-school grinder the time can really add up. New, high-powered,grind-on-demand grinder can make this process a lot quicker - we recommend the Mazzer E-series POS (Cash Register): Taking orders & payment quickly should be fast & easy, but usually it’s not. Many POS systems just aren’t designed for quick-service hospitality. Look for a system where you can enter a sale and open the cash drawer in 2-3 clicks, make sure you can send order dockets directly to where they’re needed and try to get one that integrates with your EFTPOS. Jug Rinser: It’s a simple invention that literally every cafe should have…

2. Simplify that menu

It’s the 80/20 rule. 20% of your menu is making 80% of your sales. Run a sales report and take a look at that ‘long tail’ of low selling menu items, many of them are slowing you down and costing you money in labour. Fewer ingredients & less complexity increases efficiency and speeds up service 80 percent of food sales

3. Mobile ordering

Sorry to break it to you, but not every customer wants your small talk. Some people just want to grab your (hopefully awesome) coffee and get out of there. Mobile apps can help. The customer orders & pays on the app, you get the order on your POS (cash register / iPad) and they then just roll in and grab the goods. Apart from home delivery, it doesn’t get much more convenient. There are a number of apps that specialise in mobile ordering of coffee: like Beat the Q, 365cups & TXT4Coffee. Some things to consider when deciding: do they have an existing customer base in my area? does it integrate with my existing POS system? and of course, what are the fees? While we’re talking about fees, it might be time to take a look at another piece of technology that is changing the way the coffee business operates…

4. Contactless payments

No-one likes paying merchant fees, but the days of ‘cash-only’ are behind us. A contactless Visa/Mastercard sale for a $4 coffee is going to cost you about 6 cents in fees. In return, it’s going to: 1) allow people not carrying cash to buy from you (basically everyone under 30) 2) speed up service (particularly if you get a unit that integrates with your cash register) 3) encourage people to spend more - research shows that people spend more using card Yes, all this technology is still going to cost you in fees. My advice, price it in to your products. 10c per coffee isn’t going to put many people off, but faster service will increase sales in the long run.

5. Organise your flow

A cluttered kitchen bench might be endearing at home, but as a workspace it’s not doing you any favours. For coffee, aim for a workspace that will allow two people to work side-by-side without having to reach more than an arms length to make 90% of orders. That means all the key ingredients, not just coffee & milk, but take-away cups, chocolate, sugar, syrups (if you need them) and the high volume teas (usually English Breakfast & Green). Cup dispensers, sugar dispensers and pumps (for chocolate / syrups) are all simple and relatively inexpensive ways to improve workflow efficiency While you’re at it, clear away promotional clutter like signs, cookie jars, tip jars, etc. from the work space. More stuff doesn’t equal more sales, reducing it will give you more space, which will help the flow. clean workspace For more help on starting a new business or improving an existing business, drop us an email at or call (02) 4962 4222.