The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Properly Evaluating Cafe Successes & Failures

Now more than ever, small business owners are taking a good hard look at the way their businesses are run. Some are faced with the sobering reality that they are in a deep hole with no way out; others are struggling, but see the light at the end of the tunnel.

How do you know where you stand? For whatever reason, some business owners can get behind on monitoring the details that surround profit and loss. The demands of running a cafe can be numerous and taxing, and oftentimes the not-so-little things can be brushed aside.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s not too late to refocus your energy and efforts into making your shop run profitably again. The question, for many, is how?

I was listening to a local sports radio show with a spotlight on the day-to-day adjustments our professional football team makes to analyze and prepare, and was fascinated by what I heard.  One player in particular pointed out the strategy of the head coach, who holds his “Good, Bad and Ugly” session every Monday after a game. Regardless of the outcome of the previous weekend’s game, the players and coaches come together and point out what worked well, what didn’t work (but could succeed with a little adjustment) and what pages from the playbook  needed to be ripped out and never used again.

I immediately put this thought to use in regards to our customers. Your own personal “Good, Bad and Ugly” review can be a great first step to evaluate your businesses’ own successes and failures.

So, what is working for your business? Maybe your location is fantastic and it helps pull in customers during all hours of the day. Maybe you have a great manager that really knows how to up sell retail coffee. Whatever it is,  you will want to keep these and build them up for the future.

Now, what isn’t working for your coffee house, but could improve and slide into the good category with a little help? You might have had customer complaints about drink quality and consistency. We have found over the years that some business owners can be afraid to make the necessary changes to improve. In a cafe I visited recently, I noticed one barista was steaming leftover milk. When I mentioned this to the cafe’s owner, the response was, “Well, this is how we’ve always done it and I don’t want to lose any regulars.” I was shocked. Not only was it more than a little disgusting, it also might have been a health code violation.

This business owner was approaching the problem from the wrong perspective. Instead of thinking that making the correct change would scare current customers away, it would be more appropriate to wonder how many customers  were already lost by making poor drinks. How many people walked in, saw this practice and never walked through the doors again? It is impossible to quantify.

Poor drink quality is certainly in the ‘bad’ category, but with help, it can improve drastically. I highly recommend Stockton Graham’s Barista Certification Program.  Our professionals can help establish a baseline for excellence through sustainable, intensive barista training.  

What pages in your playbook need to be torn out and burned? Having a rude employee would be one example. Maybe you’ve used cheap roboosta coffee to get by one day? No more! Subsitituting cheap products is one way to cut costs, sure, but it is also a great way to cut business, too. 

Using this means of business evaluation won’t always be easy and should be ongoing. There might be some tough decisions that need to be made along the way. Hopefully you’ll be able to more clearly identify the things to help turn things around for your cafe.

Mike Adams
Stockton Graham & Co.