A guide to a successful café set-up

Mocopan Cafe

Mocopan Coffee’s Babin Gurung shares his top café set-up and workstation tips to ensure each venue has the skills to produce delicious and consistent coffee at high volume.

Cafés are often limited by available workspace and time to produce a consistent, high volume coffee. In previous issues, I talked about the benefits of using technology and training to increase coffee quality and consistency, but this time, I want to focus on maximising speed and volume through workflow.

Mocopan’s Babin Gurung.

Café setup and layout is the first step to managing volume and efficient workflow, and it all begins with the correct placement of your tools and equipment. At Suntory Coffee, we like to follow the principle of “mise en place” which means “everything in its place”. A clean and tidy workstation helps with a smooth operational flow, and also makes a good impression on customers.

Here are few things that need to be considered as part of your café setup and any time before or after rush periods:

Coffee beans:
• Store enough coffee bags at an easy-to-reach distance near the grinder, making sure it is kept away from heat, sunlight, and moisture.
• Keep the grinder hopper(s) at least 25 per cent full to ensure coffee grinds consistently.
• Any leftover beans are to be sealed in their bag, placed in an airtight container, and stored with other bags.

• Milk should be stored in an easily accessible refrigerated space.
• Dairy milk can safely spend 30 minutes unrefrigerated. It is convenient to have a shelf directly below the coffee machine as a temporary storage for milk bottles that are in use.
• Do not store milk in direct sunlight for any period as UV light can impact milk’s quality.

• Keep additives such as sugar, syrups, chocolate powder, and chai mix next to the grinder. This makes it easy and efficient to prepare drinks without leaving your workstation.
• Also, it’s ideal to have a separate self-service sugar station for the customers in case they want to add their own sugar. This should be placed away from the machine so that they won’t feel rushed by other customers wanting to collect their coffees.

Dine-in/takeaway cups
• Store mugs and ceramic cups on top of the machine to preheat them, no more than three per stack. Stack takeaway cups upside down beside the cash register for the cashier to write the order and customer name on. Alternatively, store takeaway cups within an arm’s reach of the barista.
• Manual brewers such as a V60 and pouring kettle can be stored under the coffee bench or on a display shelf behind the barista. Because most cafés do not make as many filter coffees as they do espressos, keeping them away from the coffee machine will help keep the station tidy.

Additional tools:
• Automatic tampers like the Puqpress should be placed between the grinder and the machine for one continuous flow. For manual tampers, place it on its face on a dry surface. Similarly, distribution tools should be kept dry and away from anywhere splashes may occur.
• Automatic milk dispensers such as a the Juggler and milk frothers like Ubermilk, should be placed on the other side of the coffee machine, where the drinks are poured and served. This allows the shots and milk station to be separate but continuous.

Store coffee bags at an easy-to-reach distance near the grinder, away from heat, sunlight, and moisture

• Position the grinder within one step of the espresso machine to minimise movement around the bar.
• If your grinder has a fan that draws cool air into the grinder, be sure the vents are not obscured by other objects or caked with dust.
• Keep a large paintbrush near the grinder to sweep away excess grinds that may spill. Any spillage should be swept away immediately after it occurs. Don’t wait, or grinds will get into the customers cups, especially if you work outside where it’s windy.

Knock box:
• Empty your knock box ahead of busy periods. It must be emptied and washed every day, as its contents can quickly become mouldy. Avoid emptying it into the sink. Drains are quickly blocked by coffee grinds.
• Position the knock box as close to the grinder as possible.

• It is ideal to have the coffee machine placed next to the order counter which allows the barista to interact and engage with the customers. Not only will this help the barista learn the coffee orders as it is being taken, they can also get help from the cashier if needed in finishing drinks or cleaning and restocking.
• It is important to have the coffee machine visible from outside of the café to make it more inviting. Placing the machine at the entry point or near a window is a great way of doing that. The only downside is that the coffee will face the impact of changing weather outside such as hot, humid, or cold temperatures, which has direct impact on coffee extraction. Refer to BeanScene Feb 2021 article The Daily Grind to learn more on this topic.
• Do not place any liquids on top of your machine, even if they need to be kept warm. This is an electrical hazard.
• If you spill any liquid, coffee grinds, or anything else onto your machine, clean it immediately.

Now that our café is set up, let’s talk about workflow. Café workflow should encourage a repeatable pattern to add to the venue’s efficiency and pace. The aim is to have a workstation that can take orders, prepare espresso shots on one side of the espresso machine, texture milk on the other, then pour drinks and present the finished product to the customer, or call for service. Incorporating technologies such as an automatic tamper, milk dispenser, or auto-frother is a great way to achieve maximum efficiency.

When working in a team, make sure baristas follow these positions.

On first view at a busy café, you may think the one barista does everything from start to end to produce a coffee, but alas it’s not the case. Most high functioning and volume cafés split the role of baristas into three categories: shot barista, milk barista, and pouring barista.

Shots barista:
The primary role of a “shots barista” is to prepare the base for all coffee drinks. This includes selecting cups, adding extras, extracting the espresso, monitoring quality, and adjusting the grinder if need be. Equally important is maintaining constant communication with the milk barista to ensure no order mistakes are made. The best way to line-up shots is according to the order of coffees. Any special customer request needs to be shared with the milk barista. If shots pile up before the milk is ready, the shots barista should help in texturing milk as their secondary role. This will ensure a smooth workflow is maintained.

Milk Barista:
The primary role of a “milk barista” is to texture and pour milk in line with the coffee order. This position is more suited for an experienced barista who can guide the “shots barista” and control the flow of orders. The best way to minimise errors is to check and confirm orders with the “shots barista”. Using the “Split Pour” method we discussed in the December 2019 issue of BeanScene can help with pouring multiple drinks at once. The “milk barista” should seek opportunities to engage with customers and ensure their order has been picked up and prepared.

Pouring Barista
Where space allows, having a third person can help further increase speed and efficiency. This is a multi-tasking role which can be done by the cashier or manager during the peak periods. The role of “pouring barista” can range from pouring and finishing drinks according to milk barista’s instructions, call for service, customer engagement, and assist in stocking. It is important that the “pour barista” act as a support person and not jump into doing shots or milk which can break the workflow.

Serving a high volume of coffees at high speed and accuracy is every café’s dream. Quite often, cafés must choose one over the other. But carefully using existing resources and applying efficient setup and workflow can help achieve both.

This article appears in the June 2021 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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