For baristas working behind the counter at your coffee shop, there are a number of tasks that take place in close proximity, from grinding coffee and tamping to steaming milk and pulling shots.
Given that your baristas spend so much time working in the same area, it’s important that they are organised and use their space in an optimised way. This will improve your coffee shop’s productivity and efficiency, as well as improving your baristas’ capacity to serve delicious coffee.
But just how can you design an efficient workspace for your coffee shop? To learn more, we spoke to Anders Aarseth Fretheim at Espresso Spesialisten, and Gemma Kiernan, our Head of Marketing here at Marco Beverage Systems.
Efficiency in the workspace
The layout of a working space, which includes where furniture and equipment are placed, is crucial. Its role is not just aesthetic; it also dictates how your employees move as they work, which can have a huge impact on their performance.
Anders says that having a well-designed workspace makes it easier to run a coffee shop. As well as this, a good setup will mean your customers are waiting for less time to receive drinks that are more consistent and of higher quality.
“Think about workflow,” he says. He recommends that anything that isn’t optimising workflow or being used should either be cleared or replaced with something useful.
Having the right equipment and supplies within reach can help baristas work more efficiently; conversely, having the wrong tools or too many supplies nearby can cause confusion and clutter the limited amount of space you do have behind the bar.
Anders goes on to say that you should think about how many people use the space in question, and make sure you assign different tasks in a clear, delineated way so they don’t have to keep running around.
“If you have designated workstations, for instance, it is so much easier to keep focus [and] work cleanly and efficiently,” he tells me.
Designing your workspace: What to consider
When it comes to improving workflow, Anders says that everything should be moving in the same direction and towards where customers are served.
“On an espresso machine this is pretty easy; grind and tamp on one side, and steam milk on the other,” he says.
Think about your counter as a puzzle, and consider every task and item as a small piece of that puzzle. Go through each and ask yourself: does it fit?
Moving your point of sale (POS) to be closer to takeaway food items rather than next the grinder, for example, makes more sense.
Anders also recommends dividing up different tasks and workstations behind the bar and clearly allocating them, especially on busy days. This way, baristas won’t have any trouble with space or run into each other during the shift.
Gemma recommends that these tasks are then assigned clearly to your baristas. This will help them remain organised throughout the course of the working day.
“Assign one barista to the till/POS to serve customers and give them takeaway food, one barista to making espresso shots and filter coffee (during downtime, they can restock their areas), and finally, one barista to the milk station as well as managing takeaway drinks,” she says.
Get the right equipment
Equipment takes up space. Making sure you choose correctly – with your coffee shop’s size and needs in mind – is crucial.
Anders says that installing equipment under the counter can give you that little bit of extra space on the bar. This, he says, makes it much easier to create an atmosphere that is not just pleasant to work in, but also tidy for customers.
To achieve this, he says he uses Marco’s sleek, stylish MIX fonts along with a MIX UC boiler. “[They] are some of the most practical, space-saving pieces of equipment I know of,” he says. “Plus, they look great at the same time.”
Gemma adds that both the MIX and the FRIIA undercounter water delivery system improve a barista’s workspace in several ways.
“Firstly, baristas don’t need to interrupt the espresso machine to draw hot water for their tea or americanos,” she tells me. “Secondly, they don’t need to turn their backs to the customer when serving them.
“The sleek size of our countertop fonts also means that space is cleared on the counter, allowing items like cups or loose leaf teas to stay within easy reach of the baristas.”
Choosing the right equipment is important for another reason, too: energy efficiency. Anders says that while it might be attractive to get the biggest machine you can, you should ask yourself if it’s really necessary.
“Cut down on equipment and your stock and focus on the things you are best at,” he says.
Having the correct equipment behind the bar won’t just save space; it also helps you be more precise and cut down on your waste. Calibrating it properly will in turn reduce the amount of coffee, water, tea, and milk you waste.
In general, being precise with the supplies you order will save money and time. It allows you to make sure you’re well-stocked, meaning baristas won’t have to spend time looking for extra coffee or milk, for instance.
At the same time, it stops you from being oversupplied, which can mean you have to throw away expired products or serve stale, oxidated coffee, for instance.
“A good setup means everything should be as easy as possible for the staff,” he says. “This leads to less waste and takes less time.”
Final thoughts on upgrading your workspace
For many, the word “upgrade” means investing time and money in a full refurbishment or makeover of your operating space. This does not necessarily have to be the case.
Anders says that making simple changes like just freeing up countertop space can improve a working area significantly.
However, when you do make these changes, keep in mind that your new setup should make sense not just for your staff, but also for your customers. “[They should] know where to order, wait, find spoons, napkins, and so on,” Anders says.
He also recommends getting rid of unnecessary manual tasks where you can, as this frees up the amount of time your baristas have for customer service.
“Watching someone tamp or pour water is boring,” Anders says. “Instead, your customers can speak to baristas and learn more about coffee origins, production methods, and processing, for instance… this is much more exciting, and creates a more genuine experience.
“Automation is not the death of the barista or the craft. It opens up more possibilities for better human interaction, and leads to more focus on flavour, transparency, passion, and a general love for the products you serve.”
Improving your coffee shop’s workspace and maximising your efficiency isn’t easy. It requires careful planning and might even necessitate an investment in new equipment.
However, a thoughtful layout complete with the right tools improves the experience of your coffee shop – for both the barista and the customer.