company - education - coffee

Friday, April 10, 2009

Let the line flow

Just saw Simon's finished remodel and it looks like a change for the better. It was progressing in several stages but we helped a bit tonight in passing by taking some shelving down. His standing bar on the side adds a lot to the space and really opens it up with better light and a more comfortable feel without the shelving adding shadows. That and the new paint job is really helping.

Knowing how cafes run and having ideas on how the lines flow is a tricky business. The design Simon originally had was not his own, he took over another shop and did only superficial changes. After years of watching the customers cluster and have trouble moving the line, he made some nice changes in this remodel. In an interesting way, it is a parallel to what we are going through in the lab right now.

Ben Chen pointed out to me today that the barismo layout is pretty symmetrical with our new counter installed. It still lacks a counter top but his estimation is correct. When you first walk in the door, you walk right up to the counter where ordering happens. It's a subtle thing but it influences the flow. Order with the person pulling shots, pick up on the other side of the machine down the counter, then pay a little further down the counter. At each of those moments, a step forward. Don't underestimate the psyche of a customer. Something as little as making a step forward every now and then feels like progress where as standing and waiting can feel frustrating.

The worst thing I see in cafes is when a line backs up at the drink pick up point and there is a small group of customers waiting for drinks. There will always be the person who hears exactly what you said and will still pick it up regardless of how wrong the size is querying 'Is this mine?' More times than you would like, this person will walk off with the drink forcing the staff to remake drinks and do damage control.

The second worst flow is the criss cross design. A condiment station or drink pickup area that forces customers to flow back through the line that moves forward to access the station. Having a register past the espresso machine but drinks are ordered at the register is always a fun thing to watch as a customer. The old shout out to figure out who went and sat down leaving the abandoned drink for half an hour only to come back later confused they did not have their drink yet.

Shop design is tough and there are few places that really nail it. I guess we are looking to maximize customer space in a tiny shop and move the line. I have learned some lessons from the other shops I've worked at or visited and I decided to keep it tight and efficient. No barista self indulgence this time around. Resulting success still to be decided.