Coffee shop operations: how to solve the top challenges and unlock growth in 2024

All, Cafes & Coffee Shops, Latest from Vita Mojo

December 13, 2023

Learn how an order-centric approach to tech can solve the top challenges facing coffee shop operations, and unlock new avenues to growth.

There’s a lot more to successful coffee shop operations than finding the right roast. 

Between getting the human touch just right, trying to get a loyalty scheme off the ground, and grappling with unwieldy tech, it can feel impossible to see how your operation could grow at scale. 

But solutions do exist to these challenges that can help operators take control of their coffee shop brand, boost revenue, and fuel growth. They just require a new way of thinking. 

Join us for a deep dive into the top business goals of coffee shop brands, the challenges blocking them from these aims, and how some operations are solving  these to pave the way to new growth.

The top five business priorities for coffee shops

We partnered with KAM to research how hospitality operators – including coffee shop brands – feel about the tech they’re using in our report Hospitality Tech 2024: Bridging the efficiency and profitability gap. We uncovered that the top five focus areas for operators are:

1. Increasing profitability

3. Improving customer experience

2. Growing customers

4. Reducing costs

5. Retaining staff

Unsurprisingly the top priority for coffee brands is growth. 

But achieving this goal can feel next to impossible for many. Think grappling with overly complicated tech, adapting to shifting guest expectations and dealing with changing industry conditions. Just managing the day-to-day leaves no time to focus on how to grow the business.

56% of coffee shop operators

feel that not having enough time is a barrier to business goals

Whilst tech can help coffee shop brands answer these challenges, it’s often contributing to the problem instead.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We’re taking a look at the main challenges of running efficient order management in a coffee shop business. We break down the current solutions, and how new approaches can unlock the freedom to scale and future-proof.

How to solve the top challenges for coffee shop operations

1. How to maintain the human touch whilst scaling

There’s much more about your operation that your guests love in addition to the coffee. It’s the welcoming atmosphere they know they’ll get when they walk in, the friendly service when they order, and the human-centric feel of the brand at every touchpoint. 

Building and maintaining this is an essential part of a successful coffee operation. 

The queue problem

But it’s not easy for teams on the ground to deliver this experience consistently, especially at peak, and especially as your operation grows. 

Taking manual orders at the POS when faced with a long queue is stressful and ineffective in delivering a positive human experience. 

By taking a holistic approach to orders and encouraging pre-orders via Click & Collect on a mobile app, you can reduce the amount of guests queuing at the POS. This helps your team fulfil more orders whilst still delivering a positive experience.

Keeping the human touch with digital

Of course, the other side of the coin is that with digital ordering you’re removing the initial human interaction from the order process altogether. But this doesn’t mean your Click & Collect customers won’t get this human experience at all. Tech should empower a coffee shop operation to grow; it shouldn’t take anything away from it. 

It just means they benefit from that human customer service at a different point in the order journey. 

We pride ourselves that when you walk into a LEON, you should have an experience that’s full of sunshine.

With digital ordering, our teams are saying ‘how do I give that sunny experience?’. What we’ve had to do is just shift our thinking a little bit.

Does the digital ordering look and feel vibrant? So that sunshine is coming across with the imagery, the colours.

And the next bit was taking our team on a journey: when you’re handing over the item, that’s the opportunity to have that connection. You make eye contact, you have a little chat, call them by their name if it feels appropriate.”

Mariam French
Marketing Director at LEON (speaking on the Supersonic podcast)

2. How to deliver a truly omnichannel loyalty experience

Paper-based stamp cards used to be a valuable addition to a coffee shop operation, but they’ve become redundant as customer behaviour and tech opportunities have grown. 

Digital loyalty schemes are becoming the standard, but with a tech approach that depends on multiple point solutions, it becomes almost impossible for these to work together. Points add up separately across different channels, making it much harder to earn a reward. Plus, the valuable data you collect across these loyalty schemes is siloed across different platforms.

A loyalty scheme becomes much more engaging and exciting for the customer when it’s part of a centralised, order-centric approach to tech.

coffee click & collect

Whether they’re ordering Click & Collect on your mobile app or online, or physically ordering at the POS, your guests can earn points on every channel that ladder up on a singular loyalty journey. This will increase  adoption of this valuable marketing channel.

“When we thought about the principles of what the loyalty programme should be, it was fundamentally: how do you say thank you to all our customers? 

Now, you get a digital stamp, and if you spend over £20, you get a second stamp. After nine visits, you get a free barista made drink. 

It’s a crowded market place and people choose us nonetheless. That angle of ‘gratitude’ is really important to us”

Rosie Hill
Head of Ecommerce at GAIL's Bakery

3. How to build an app that works for your specific coffee brand

Mobile apps are increasingly central to your guests’ relationship with your coffee brand. If you’re on their home screen, it’s real love. 

It’s not just a convenient way to interact with your customers outside the four walls of your restaurant and increase that brand awareness. An app can be a hugely valuable home for your coffee loyalty scheme.

But it won’t be effective if it’s generic. Your customers love the look and feel of your brand, and expect to see this in the palm of their hand when they download your mobile app. 

gails bakery mobile omnichannel loyalty

You also need to think about how your app will integrate with your larger tech ecosystem. Will your guests be able to order Click & Collect coffee through your app? How easy is this to set up if different providers develop your order channels and your mobile app? 

Working with a single provider that manages the tech for your entire order cycle means working with a partner who understands your brand inside and out, and can easily build the look and feel your guests expect into the mobile app journey. Order channels are already all integrated into the same system, and your loyalty scheme can reflect points across every order channel in one place. 

4. How to cut out chaos for your baristas (and fulfil more orders)

Every coffee shop operation wants to grow, but as more orders come in from various channels, the pressure on your already busy team increases too. 

If you depend on multiple providers to manage your separate order channels (such as your POS and your Click & Collect channels), your baristas are going to be grappling with orders coming in from multiple drink screens at the same time. 

Instead, a more order-centric approach means all your channels are handled by the same provider. So every order, no matter which channel they come from, appears on the same single drinks screen. This allows your baristas to work faster, more accurately and more efficiently, turning chaos into confidence when it comes to fulfilling more orders.

5. How to make customisation easy (without wasting hours on menu management)

By its nature, coffee lends itself to being customised. 

From cup size and number of shots through to adding syrups and choosing milk alternatives, your guests expect full control over their brew no matter where they order it from. Your POS should make adding customisation convenient for your team, whilst your digital ordering channels should have a clear, easy to learn UI so your guests can customise to their heart’s content.

But with a POS-centric tech stack, every customisation option you add into your ecosystem has to be added across multiple platforms, and managed across separate systems. This becomes extremely time-consuming and inefficient the more order channels and locations you add. 

Instead of compromising on the amount of options available to your guests, take a more holistic approach to menu management. With a single platform handling both your POS and Click & Collect menus, you can update menu items and customisation options once and push them out to all menus and locations with the press of a button.

6. How to make data-backed decisions easily

It shouldn’t feel impossible to use data effectively in your coffee shop operation. 

You should be able to easily assess which drinks are selling well, and which ones need reworking to be more profitable. It should be simple to pull reports that you can actually read to help you know exactly how each store and region are performing. And you should be able to get the crucial sales data needed to deliver a more customised loyalty experience: in fact according to McKinsey, 76% of consumers get frustrated when they don’t receive these sorts of personalised experiences. 

But with each new location you open, each new order channel you add to your tech stack, it becomes increasingly difficult to get those crucial insights all in one place. If you’re depending on separate providers to integrate to keep your tech stack working, you’ll have multiple systems to learn and use to access that siloed data. 

You’ll then need to dedicate time to collating it into one report, which is often complicated and difficult to use. Getting your onsite managers more data-informed is impossible when you’re sending them reports they can barely read. 

Instead, working with a single software provider across your entire operation means your valuable sales data all sits in one, easy to access system. Log into one place, and find all the reports tailored to your specific requirements ready and waiting. Easily recognise trends that can help you boost your coffee shop revenue, and stop wasting time simply trying to find the right spreadsheet. 

It's time to rethink coffee shop operations, it's time to take control

No part of your coffee shop business is an island; each element depends on another to truly succeed.

Think about all your order channels, menus, and locations. All the elements that go into fulfilling a single order; from the ordering software through to the drinks screen your baristas use. 

Your operation depends on all these elements working together as one, and this should be exactly what your tech setup empowers.

What does this look like? 

A single order management system

With the Vita Mojo Order Management System you can deliver calm to your baristas and on-site team with just one central menu to update, one system to see every order from every channel, and one source for all your sales data–giving scaling hospitality brands the breathing space to expand. 

And you can give your guests the human-touch experience they want, without compromising on scaling and growth.