Delegating Activities

Your goal as a manager should be to delegate as many of the operational functions as possible to your barista employees. In other words, you want to get out of working in the business, and be working on the business. Following are some examples that will help you understand how to do this.

When we owned and managed our coffee bar, one of our pet peeves was seeing fingerprints and smudges on the front door and pastry case glass. These two areas are extremely important! The front door is the first thing the customer sees when coming into the business. If it’s filthy it makes a statement about the rest of your establishment. The pastry case is the showcase for displaying what you’re trying to sell. If the case looks dirty it certainly won’t compliment the items inside, nor will it make them look very appealing!

It was our tendency when we first started operating our business that if we saw that the front door or pastry case was dirty, we’d grab the glass cleaner and paper towels and clean it ourselves. We had a lot of other responsibilities to attend to during day, and that one function combined with dozens of other similar functions was certainly occupying a large portion of our time. Reality finally struck us one day, and it dawned on us that our cashier and barista were standing there watching us clean, with absolutely nothing to do!

At some point you should be asking yourself, Why am I doing this work? From that point on, we would ask whoever wasn’t busy to please clean whatever it was that needed cleaning. They would oblige, but only if we asked. So, the question still remained. Who actually “owns” this job? It became clear that the answer was that we still owned the job. Unless we asked someone to do the job, it still wasn’t getting done. This brought us to our next realization.

If we were to ever relinquish ownership of this function, we would have to delegate it and make it part of a particular employees daily responsibilities. We pulled the cashier aside and said, As soon as you’re done servicing the customers and you have a moment, part of your daily responsibility is to look at the front door and pastry case. If they’re not spotless, please make sure to clean them. The employee’s response was, I’m going to have to do that 50 times a day because they’re always dirty. We said, That’s absolutely right. That’s what we’re paying you for and what we want you to do.

At this point we no longer owned the job. It became the employee’s job and responsibility because we delegated it to her on a permanent basis. Of course we still had to supervise and remind the employee that these things needed cleaning, but with constant reinforcement she finally took care of those things without us having to remind her.

This is something you need to think about if you’re going through your day and find yourself doing mundane chores on a regular basis. These are chores that don’t require management expertise and should be done by your employees. If you’re doing them, ask yourself why. The answer will probably be that you haven’t delegated them to your employees or made it part of their job.


Teaching Your Employees

It’s also important to constantly challenge and teach your employees. We’re strong believers in the saying that There is no such thing as a plateau. When it comes to personal or professional development you’re either growing or regressing. In order to keep your employees motivated and always moving forward, it’s important to keep them challenged and thinking. Let us give you another example:

You’re doing a walk-thru of your espresso bar during the morning shift. You see your barista pulling shots of espresso and the streams are pouring out much too quickly from the portafilter. They are much too large in diameter, watery in appearance, and the crema is a light blonde color. You understand that this is creating an under-extracted shot of espresso that will taste sour. There are a number of ways you can handle this situation.

Probably the simplest solution would be for you to reach over and adjust the grind yourself. However, by doing this, you haven’t involved the barista in the process and it’s highly unlikely he or she will have learned anything if you use this approach.

The second way you could deal with the situation is to say to the barista, Your extraction is too fast, adjust your grind to be finer. By doing this the barista will hopefully adjust it to the right consistency to reestablish a perfect shot of espresso. You still own the job however, because you had to tell the barista what it was he or she needed to do. The barista would probably only make this adjustment if prompted by you.

You need to ask yourself why the barista is pulling shots that are too fast to begin with. The answer is that the barista probably lacks the knowledge to identify a poor extraction. Or the barista may have forgotten what he or she was taught during initial training. But whatever the reason, it is obvious that the barista does not understand the importance of proper extraction rates.

Even though it’s more tedious and takes more time, you should address the issue with the barista when he or she is not in the middle of a rush. Ask the barista, How does that shot of espresso look to you? In other words make him or her go through an analytical process. If you’ve trained them up-front, the barista should know and say, It looks a little fast. Your next question should be, “How can we fix that?” The barista may come back with a question such as, “Adjust the grind finer?” To which you would agree, and say, “Yes, adjust the grind finer.”

After the grind has been adjusted, you will need to tell the barista to run the grinder a few seconds to push the old coffee out the chute to the doser. Remind the barista that the coffee in the chute was ground before the adjustment was made. After having disposed of all the old coffee in the doser, have the barista grind some new coffee and pull a test shot to determine if the consistency is correct. Ask again, “How does this look; is it a good shot now?” In other words, by taking the barista through the thought process and having him or her articulate what the possible solution might be, followed by actually performing the function, you are teaching the barista a skill. With some reinforcement, the barista will learn to analyze extraction rates and fix the grind without your intervention. This is how you develop a professional staff and free yourself from daily micro management.

It’s also important on a daily basis to help an employee who is in some need of some development. Who on your staff is having problems or could be stronger in the skills related to their job? Make an effort to work with this person and put some effort into improving her skills. Let her know it’s her “lucky day” and that you’ve chosen her as your personal development project for that day. You want her to understand that you’ve set aside some time to help develop her skills and make her a better employee. Remember your business is only as strong as your weakest employee.


Understanding Your Employees and Accepting Responsibility

Understand that your employees will be passing judgment on you on a daily basis as to whether or not you are fulfilling your duties and responsibilities as a manager. Most owners find this difficult to accept. After all, what right do your employees have to pass judgment on you? You are the owner of the business! You’re the one working 80 hours a week! You are the one that has taken the giant financial risk! They don’t know how many things you juggle, or how busy you are, and how much you actually do. But really, those things are not important to your employees, and shouldn’t be important to them.

What is important to employees are the things that impact them and their job function on a daily basis. Do they have the tools necessary to perform the job at the level that you expect from them? Is your equipment in optimal condition or is it in need of repair? Do they have enough steaming pitchers and thermometers, enough ceramic cups, enough syrup pumps? Do they have the ingredients available to prepare all the items on your menu, all the time?

You need to understand that if you’re out of something, it’s probably not you that’s standing at the counter experiencing the disgust of the customer. It’s your employee that’s being embarrassed. It’s your poor employee who is listening to your customers, hearing perhaps 20 times a day, “What, you’re out of chocolate?” If you are going to demand professional results from your employees, you have to be professional in your job as well.

Organize your day. We are amazed at how many people think that the function of a coffee bar manager is to sit in the dining room for the majority of the day, drinking coffee and talking to customers. While networking with your customers is important, there are so many things that you need to be doing in the business that you should have every minute of every day occupied with constructive tasks. Tasks that not only deal with what’s necessary for daily operations, but also tasks related to the short-term and long-term programs necessary to move your business forward. We’ve enclosed a fictitious manager’s schedule at the end of this chapter so that you can use it as an example to help you develop your own schedule.

We are always amazed and saddened by people who won’t take personal responsibility for their own mistakes and difficulties. It always someone else’s fault with these individuals, like those darn customers, or that rotten landlord, or those stupid employees. But, the bottom line is that you can’t correct the problem unless you realize and accept the fact that you are the one that has total control over the process.

In order to be a successful manager, you must be willing to accept personal responsibility for your business. That means not only taking responsibility for your success but also for your failures. After all, if you are the owner or manager of the business, then you are more than likely the one who made all the critical decisions that are contributing to your success, or your failure. Will it not be you who chooses the location and signs the lease?  Who hires and trains your employees?  Selects the products and develop the recipes? Will it not be you who will be responsible for marketing your business to attract the necessary customers to produce the income necessary to meet your expectations and insure your business success? If something isn’t working as you had originally anticipated, then look at yourself first. Look at what it is you have done, and if necessary develop and implement an alternative plan in an effort to make your business successful. If you are to manage successfully, then you need to understand that the only days that are important are today and tomorrow. Learn from your past mistakes, then work smart every day so that your goals and dreams will become your reality tomorrow.

Excerpt from Bean Business Basics