THE ART OF BEING AWESOME.

WHY SOME CAFES STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD.

Caroline Carter, Head of Training & Operational Development

I learned from a young age that the hospitality business is all about fulfilling the customer’s needs and every customer is different! My family were hoteliers, my Nan proudly tells stories of the day my grandad went out to view a newspaper shop and came back having bought a café. Years later they had run hugely successful cafes, fish and chip shops, nursing homes and latterly hotels. Their motto, rather than 'the customer is always right' was that 'the customer is always the customer'. This is a strong message in hospitality.

My Dad and his brothers all worked in the family business. When we were children, we would go to work with my Dad at the hotel and this is where we saw the little pieces of magic that made this business truly awesome. We used to love watching the weddings being set up, every piece of cutlery and china being polished, the delicious aroma from the kitchens as the chefs created the perfect wedding breakfast and reception banquet and all of this delivered with such passion. Jim the barman would spend hours polishing the copper bar top and every glass and bottle until it gleamed.

What we loved the most was the buzzing atmosphere, everyone was always smiling, they all worked as a team and with pride. When the bride & groom arrived it was clear to see that everything centred around making their whole day perfect and memorable. Throughout the years, the bride & groom would hold their christenings at the hotel and then host their children’s weddings and then their christenings. It all became a family tradition. This is when you know you have achieved the art of being awesome.

This is why I love this business, the business of coffee, the business of hospitality, the business of making memories. There are so many different propositions, each and every one unique in its own way. Every concept designed to meet the need of the customer at that particular time.

What makes an awesome colleague?

The best thing about joining Matthew Algie was the awesome people I got to work with. Two people who really stood out were Lou & Eduarda. Lou was a great manager who radiated energy, was giddy, excitable and the most memorable trainer you could meet. Lou recognised that in order to be an awesome trainer you needed to engage your team and your trainees by choosing to bring energy, passion, and a positive can-do attitude to everything that you delivered. As part of the trainer induction, you were gifted the book FISH, based on the famous Seattle fish market, which focuses on how your behaviour and energy influences everything and everybody around you.

This brings me to Eduarda. I was lucky enough to visit the Seattle fish market a few years later, on a coffee visit with our now Head of Coffee. Eduarda is who made me fall in love with coffee, Eduarda is who would make anyone fall in love with coffee. If you have ever had the privilege of attending one of Eduarda’s cuppings or training sessions then you will know exactly what I mean.

Eduarda has the most incredible way of making people feel at ease around coffee. She removes any complexity, encourages people not to only think about flavours but to think about memories, feelings and emotions. It’s a beautiful way to engage even the most novice coffee drinker to explore new origins.

What makes an awesome customer experience? An awesome customer experience will need to be adapted to suit your concept.

If you offer grab-and-go then clean, well-stocked, great food and drink offer, delivered efficiently, consistently with a smile goes a long way.

If you are running a small independent café or even a chain coffee shop, your customer’s needs will vary.

I spoke to some of my friends and colleagues and asked them what an awesome experience meant to them - in the context of buying coffee.

My friends with small children, welcomed when the team helped them to the table and bought over a clean highchair without asking. The barista also gave their youngest a babycino on the house and this distraction made their day. This café has now become part of their weekly outings and they can’t wait to return.

Another friend takes a long walk every weekend. The beautiful café which had lakeside seating pre covid has had to completely adapt its model over lockdown. They have created an order point and converted their menu to go, they have kept it really simple and executed it very well. They have upped their presence on social media, added cute personal messages to the top of the cups with a sharpie pen such as “you’re TEAriffic” “have an awesome day” “stay safe” all with little hearts or sketches. This provided some solidarity and became part of their routine. These small tokens made them hugely successful as everyone returned each week.

As for me, I live in a seaside town and most of my friends have dogs. How the cafes respond to our four-legged friends really influences where we go for coffee. We are extremely lucky to have an amazing café with an awesome team right on our doorstep. They love dogs, have fresh water and dog treats on the ready. This café is so awesome that Millie, our cockapoo, pulls on the lead the whole way there!.

So how do you deliver an awesome coffee experience?

The Art of Being Awesome Check-List:

1. Walk the Customer Journey

  • Start at the entrance, does it look clean and welcoming?
  • Is the POS clean, current and in good condition?
  • Are tables and floor clean?
  • Is the café well-stocked, displayed correctly, visually appealing?
  • Is the team presentable, wearing clean uniforms (if applicable) and creating a warm welcome?
  • Test a coffee (our favourite part)

2. Set up for Success

  • Are all ingredients stocked and readily available for replenishment?
  • Are all equipment, crockery and take out cups well stocked?
  • Are coffee machine & grinders clean and any adjustments made?
  • Are food displays well-stocked?

3. Communication

  • Are the team smiling and acknowledging customers as they join the queue?
  • Are the team upselling or suggestive selling to the customer where appropriate?
  • Are the barista and till person communicating effectively?
  • Is the barista calling the queue for any hot drinks
  • Are the team directing people to any self-serve condiments?
  • Are your team fully trained on allergens?

4. Speed of Service

  • Is there a fully trained barista on coffee during peak times?
  • Are the baristas following an efficient drinks routine – pouring milk in the jug first, then espresso shots, then heating the milk?
  • Is the till person helping with teas and filter coffees during busy times?
  • Is the customer receiving their drink with 60 seconds post-payment for to-go and within 5 minutes of ordering for café service?

5. Going the Extra Mile

  • Are your team observant and do they recognise when customers need extra support?
  • Are they wowing customers with exceptional food and drinks?
  • Are they acknowledging customers on leaving and thanking them for their visit?
  • Do they recognize and communicate with regulars?
  • If you are dog-friendly, do you have a clean bowl of fresh water outside and possibly some treats?

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About Caroline Carter

Head of Training & Operational Development at Matthew Algie


Caroline is our in-house learning and development expert, with over 30 years of hospitality experience, 15 of which are specific to developing barista training programmes. Caroline has extensive hands-on F&B operations experience and has worked with some of the largest retailers, quick-service restaurants and coffee shop chains.

In addition to holding hospitality qualifications, Caroline has held lecturer positions at the Swiss Hotel Management School and delivered food and beverage NVQ programmes. Caroline believes that there is more to barista training than great coffee, you need to feel inspired and be as passionate about the drinks you serve as providing a great customer experience.

Caroline manages an in-house team of barista trainers and our new e-learning programme.