Café Management: It’s All About People

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Cafe management isn't all coffee and pastries. Whether you’re an owner-operator or you employ a full-time front-of-the-house manager, people are the core of your business. You need to know how to engage them, motivate them, and teach them.

Some management basics, to stay you in your employees’ good graces:

Always be professional. Never yell, curse or hurl insults at employees. This is the least you can do to maintain morale and respect for your position.

Put most things in writing. Don’t assume employees will “know what to do” if you haven’t told them explicitly. Have clearly defined job descriptions with reasonable expectations and boundaries in writing. Also clarify your policies for tipping out, sick time, tardiness, etc.

Provide adequate training. New employees are usually nervous about starting a new job and will need time to adjust. Train them during slow or off hours, so they can feel empowered and encouraged rather than throw to the wolves during a morning rush. And have them shadow experienced coworkers for a few days. Otherwise they’ll feel overwhelmed, and their lack of confidence will reflect on your business.

Deal with problems head-on, and welcome input. A major part of a manager’s job is to take care of staff. Give employees a safe outlet for expressing grievances and to suggest ideas, so they’ll be inclined to ride out tough times (and less inclined to take their frustrations out on customers). Be available, and really listen so you can understand the situation and come up with a real solution.

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Reward professionalism and hard work. At some cafés, employees with the longest tenure get to work the most coveted shifts. To reinforce your expectations for how people perform on the job, you might also consider giving people who are easy to work with some preferred shifts.

But don’t play favorites. Some employees are better than others, but if any one of them is so bad that you’d rather ignore them, let them go and then treat the rest equally.

Take care of them. Thank employees for a job well done. (Praise publicly and scold privately is a good motto.) Ask them how things are going. Have an occasional staff party. Make good workers feel appreciated and they will be more likely to stay.

Be friendly, but don’t be friends. Show an interest in the lives of your staff, but don’t make a habit of spending a lot of free time with them. This can confuse business matters and make it hard to “be the boss” when you’re at work.

Keep your word. This goes for the good and the bad. If you promise a review or a raise, make it happen if you want to keep people happy and motivated. If you threaten to fire someone for continual tardiness, follow through the next time they’re late or you’ll lose credibility.