The Importance of an Employee Handbook

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"I used to manage a coffee shop. The owner tasked me with writing an employee handbook that ended up taking weeks of my time and I'm not even confident I did that great of a job. It's a lot harder than it looks to get right." 
Anthony Bianco
John Mayweather
Missoula, Montana

Each and every customer that enters your coffee shop provides a lifetime’s worth of value to your business’s bottom line. Imagine this: you’ve just moved to a new city and you’re a coffee fanatic. After the long move you’re excited to try out the local coffee shop that you saw just down the street, thinking how wonderful it’ll be having it so close. You walk inside and up to the counter where an employee supposedly working register has their back to you and is talking loudly to their coworker about the party they had gone to the night before. It is an awkward wait before they finally turn to take your order. Lazily unsure of where some of the buttons are on the register, they ring you up you for something different and unknowingly over-charge you in the process. They seem glad to be done with the transaction and return to their personal conversation with the other barista who makes no attempt to start the drink you had just ordered. After ten minutes of waiting for that coffee you had been so excited for, the barista finally prepares a terrible drink that is entirely a let down. You leave disappointed, surely never to return.

Do you think those baristas cared if you had a bad experience? After all, they’re being paid the same hourly wage whether you came in or not. To the business owner, however…they likely just lost thousands and thousands of dollars in repeat business over the course of your lifetime. Who knows how much you could have spent there this year alone? Nevermind the fact that you, the upset customer, are likely to tell your friends about your terrible experience at that cafe, or worse…write a bad review someplace public. 

This experience you had with your local shop was terrible to the point where you will likely never return or recommend anyone to that coffee shop. Your frequent business and money that would have gone to this cafe will, instead, be given to one that provides consistent, friendly service and beverages, and is well managed.

Consistency

In the previous scenario, maybe those two specific workers were the only ones in the team of baristas that have a bad habit of prioritizing personal conversations over customers. No matter, this lack of consistency in service and respect in that one single interaction had, possibly, lost the business owner a lifetime customer, perhaps multiple lifetime customers because of the word-of-mouth aspect, and lost the owner tens of thousands of potential dollars in lost revenue. The actions of those two workers, in that one single interaction that ONE day – tainted the entire experience for, possibly numerous other customers without a care in the world because they were still getting paid no matter what. After all – if this isn’t their dream job, why should they care? Customer service matters just as much as the quality of coffee you are serving; giving a customer a holistically wonderful experience will ensure they continue to come back for more. This is how you establish a loyal group of appreciative, satisfied customers, and what separates your business from your competition.   

Consistency goes for beverage preparation as well: each and every barista must be trained in the proper techniques to confidently prepare an amazing drink every time. Without this, an inconsistent product will continue to roll out your doors along with future returning customers. No matter the barista that is put on bar that day, you should know that a quality beverage will be made and that the customer will receive the drink they ordered, and it should taste the exact same, every time, no matter who made it. If, by chance, the drink is made incorrectly then there should be an automatic reaction from that barista to remake the beverage to the customer’s liking to ensure they continue to have a great experience regardless of a genuine mistake. These actions and attitudes displayed by your baristas are what will keep a customer coming back over and over again, and telling their friends about your shop. A customer should never get a sense of disappointment when, walking inside your coffee shop, they see the barista working who never seems to get their drink right. 

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Structure: Clear Workplace Rules

You find out from other employees that a barista has been giving out free drinks to their friends and taking pastries that they hadn’t paid for. Another barista has been calling out “sick” every other shift they were assigned to, leaving you short-staffed frequently. You find that customers keep telling you that your baristas are on their phones while attending to customers behind the bar. As an owner, these behaviors are probably very frustrating and concerning to you. Your employees play an enormous role in the success of your company and these are behaviors that will not be helpful in achieving this. 

With this being said, an owner is not always going to be available in their coffee shop to remedy these situations and address these behaviors as they occur. Or it may be difficult to do so. What if you let one person get away with something, are you on the hook for letting another get away with the same thing? That is why it is crucial to establish ground rules and policies before releasing them to work in your coffee shop. Without this foundation, your employees may be confused or take certain personal liberties while on company time. If you think that two baristas not getting along in the workplace isn’t detrimental to the happiness of your customers, think again. People notice animosity between two employees every day. Successfully enforcing ground rules and regulations is a vital aspect of any successful coffee shop. If one person does something wrong, there needs to be guidelines for the management to point to and say, “Look, this is exactly what the rule is that you broke. If you don’t fix that, there will be repercussions.”  

To prevent these things from happening, a clearly written employee handbook should be provided to each employee before beginning working a single shift. As an owner, it is your responsibility to give your employees all the information they need to successfully help you run the front-end of your business. Management should discuss and clarify everything in the handbook to make sure the employee understands the standards that are expected of them. This includes also outlining punishment actions that will occur if an employee were to disobey any aspect of the agreed-upon company policies. If that employee continues to give out free drinks and take liberties with pastries, they should be warned, written up, and/or let go if the behavior continues to happen. It is important for the employees to understand that those actions will not go unnoticed or unaddressed, as well as there are defined consequences for them. Harsh as it may be, remember the lifetime value of each interaction with every single customer. One bad experience can lead to multiple thousands of dollars in lost revenue, and your employees need to understand that. 

Team Member Communications 

Seemingly, many employees may become frustrated or unhappy with the lack of consistency or structure in a job without an employee handbook. This could lead to tensions and fights in the workplace that could have been avoided if expectations were laid out beforehand. If everyone is not on the same page, it is impossible to create a harmonious work environment that will produce the best results. Unhappy employees create unsatisfactory work. Your customers will suffer and so will your bottom line. Without the framework that an employee handbook provides, your employees will not have rules to adhere to and your business will suffer from inefficiency and confusion. 

Bad tempers and frustration are not conducive in creating a place that people are excited to come into work every day. Your employee retention will suffer and your staff will become inconsistent. Unsurprisingly, these types of interactions will almost certainly be noticed by your customers. You want employees to work well with each other and enjoy where they work, not the opposite. 

Once the employees have this information spelled out in a great employee handbook, there should be no excuse for the bad behaviors or inconsistency that occurs afterwards. If an employee does exhibit behaviors outlined as unacceptable in the handbook, they will know exactly what will happen and why it happened. No confusion, no surprises. 

In Conclusion

There is no limit to the power of an employee handbook. It can save a company heart-ache and frustration with things not being done the way they should be. If you’ve ever managed without guiding principles to live by, you likely understand the frustrations of keeping peace amongst employees, or trying to write someone up for behavior without a document to refer to as the reason why action is being taken. By giving your employees the ultimate framework to success, it makes it easy for an owner to know that their business is being run the right way without cutting corners or inexcusable behaviors.

The handbook should also outline other legalities such as harassment & discrimination, terms of employment, breaks/meals, substance abuse, building security, dress code, and workplace accident coverage. Everyone is different and businesses operate all over the world, so no business should assume they won’t encounter a problem within any one of these sections in the handbook. No matter what, it is crucial for all businesses to do a thorough overview of each aspect of the handbook with every employee to ensure a good experience for everyone involved.  

Does Your Coffee Shop Have a Handbook? 

Make it easy on yourself. We’ve designed an easy-to-customize template designed specifically for coffee shop owners. So simple that anyone could do it in a matter of minutes. It’s just one of the ways we help people succeed in specialty coffee. 

Are you entering the coffee industry?

Hey, we’re Bellissimo Coffee Advisors. A team of coffee professionals determined to help people just like you succeed in specialty coffee. 

We’ve been around 30 years and have helped thousands of coffee shops all around the globe open and stay open well into the future. Learn from our experience, give your business the best chance to succeed.

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Further Reading…

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Contact Us

Bellissimo Coffee Advisors
1028 SE Water Ave
Ste 275
Portland, OR 97214
503.232.2222
800.655.3955
info@coffeebusiness.com

Contact 

Bellissimo Coffee Advisors
1028 SE Water Ave
Ste 275
Portland, OR 97214

503.232.2222
800.655.3955
info@coffeebusiness.com