Coffee bar owners’ biggest problems are… their own management skills

The ability to find, hire, motivate and retain good staff continues to be the biggest general frustration for operators in the coffee trade. And the second biggest general problem in the trade is… the performance of café owners themselves!

According to a snapshot survey of 200 coffee-bar operators by the Coffee Boys, the extremely experienced café consultants from Northern Ireland, hiring and keeping staff continues to be a major puzzle. Eleven per cent of operators say they have trouble finding the right staff in the first place, and a very worrying fifteen per cent say they can’t get their staff to perform the way they want.

That of course is a management issue, as are café operators’ other major current worries – ten per cent of operators have trouble understanding the financial side of their own business, and exactly the same figure worry that their own management is not good enough to be sure that their business will function properly if they are away from the premises.

These aside, the biggest single worry for café owners is the problem of attracting new customers. Just over ten per cent of café operators are worried about not being able to get their prices higher, or increase their existing customers’ average spend.

By contrast, few respondents are worried about their suppliers, and a remarkably small figure, a fraction of one per cent, are worried about suppliers’ inability to provide them with ‘great coffee’ – that figure is going to stir some debate among those who believe that the cafe sector’s biggest current challenge is to raise the public’s level of expectation in coffee quality!

The survey is being run in preparation for the Coffee Boys’ presentations to this week’s Caffe Culture show, where the consultants John Richardson and Hugh Gilmartin will be speaking on each of the three days. The Coffee Boys have promised that rather than give a conventional speech, they will focus specifically on café owners’ known current problems, as highlighted by responses to the survey.

It is still possible for cafe operators to take part in the survey, at http://www.thecoffeeshopquestion.com . Responses continue to be invited, and the value of taking part, says John Richardson, is that those who run coffee shops and cafes will get their voices heard.

(The Caffe Culture show is at Olympia, London, 23-25 June)

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