Story by Sean Edwards
Efficient cafe workflow is vital in combining speed and quality in the coffee process. Smart operators understand this, and at the very beginning of the planning concept will find ways to combine elements into the fit-out that will allow for an efficient workflow to happen.
I get to see hundreds of fit-outs a year and too many have concentrated on the look, versus practical application and usability of the space.
One of the busiest cafés I have come across is Planet Espresso in Auckland, New Zealand. The café is situated in the Auckland City Hospital and is owned by Rob and Anna McGregor (also the owners of Coffee Lab Roasters). Over the past ten years they have developed systems that have allowed two cafés to be able to pump out two thousand quality espresso coffees a day. I was lucky enough to have a sneak preview of their new Planet Espresso fit-out, which the hospital has positioned specifically to help with the flow of people around this space.
Planet Espresso turn over an enormous amount of coffee on a daily basis through their espresso bars by having three four group La Marzoccos, with up to four baristas on each machine. The customers will line up behind their favourite team of baristas for their daily coffee order. The baristas build their own customer base between the three stations, creating a real customer rapport. The barista team is also rewarded for the number of coffees produced and through customer feedback, with monthly workplace incentives like dinner and movie tickets. This incentive has helped create better teamwork, with a touch of competitiveness between baristas trying to top each other with higher quality coffee and service. It was great to see the engagement between barista and customer, creating a fun and happening space.
Most of the hospital staff have a Planet Espresso loyalty card that is not only an electronic payment gateway, but also contains the customer order, allowing customers to swipe their own card at the counter to speed up the ordering process. Rob and Anna developed this customer ordering system a long time ago, before there were any smart applications available.
The speed of the order is achieved by the barista completing a single set task: creating the espresso. For example, one barista would be preparing shots, another steaming and pouring milk. The baristas are rostered on at different peak times of the day, with a maximum of eight baristas on the machines in busy morning rushes. All coffees are takeaway in the main foyer area. It’s amazing what can be achieved in such a tight space, which is a credit to the team for smart design and taking in consideration growth in customer numbers.
Planet Espresso does have a small food menu on offer but essentially is a coffee business, so speed and number of drinks served daily is vital to making this business profitable, considering the large staffing costs. The new location will allow for some slight changes to the food menu and will also help with traffic flow of customers. Remember, medical staff are always in a hurry!
I look forward to my next visit to see the new version of Planet Espresso that has just opened. Thank you, Rob and Anna, for taking us behind the scenes of your busy espresso bar, and I look forward to seeing you on our next jump across the ditch.