Having a queue in your coffee shop or café is a beautiful thing to behold, but according to the latest research, if you have more than six guests waiting, then people are deterred from standing in line.
There is another six that matters, and that’s waiting more than six minutes, where you perceive the queue is too slow.
When you see a line you subconsciously understand that what is at the end must be worth it; it’s a form of social proof.
When you join a queue and people join after you, you are less likely to leave!
Research carried out by Adrian Furnham Professor of Psychology at UCL has identified that the optimal amount of time a customer is prepared to wait in line is five minutes 54 seconds before they think about leaving. After five minutes the customer’s satisfaction has gone from 95% to 85%. After five minutes 54 seconds, the comfort begins to drops at a much quicker rate, decreasing to around 55% by 8 minutes.
Of course, it all depends on the desirability and availability of what is at the front of the queue you are joining. At one end of the scale, there is an Apple launch where people will queue for days and at the other end, an ATM where you will just carry on until you get to another one.
So the more unique and desirable your coffee, the more people will join your queue rather than walk 50 yards to the next coffee outlet. What makes your coffee shop so good that people will be prepared to wait in line a little longer than is comfortable?
A big challenge for independents is to manage the ebbs and flows of trade, and one of the greatest gripes is the slowness of service. In many cases the baristas love for producing the perfect drink may become an excuse for slow service which is actually due to poor organisation.
Having a system behind the bar that adapts based on the number of people waiting is something everyone needs real clarity on, we call it ‘Aces in Places’. It is essential to ensure speed, accuracy and consistency in processing every order.
There are lots of factors at work that limit the speed of service:
- Some of them are inbuilt into the design and layout where the physical location of equipment can cause delay.
- Inadequate training which results in mistakes can cripple a smooth operation.
- Not communicating the drinks when served to customers is a big issue, if someone takes the wrong drinks, then that will result in two orders needing to be remade.
- Simply not preparing for the shift and running out of essentials when busy, things like change in the till or take away cups or lids will take someone away from the important task of serving customers.
If you think of your coffee production as any other manufacturing process, it is the bottlenecks that cause the problem. In other words, coffee can only be made at the speed of the slowest part or the process, which is often the steaming of the milk.
The personal interaction when ordering is something that shouldn’t be overlooked either, as it’s at this point that relationships between your business and the customer are nurtured and cultivated.
The one advantage of making your guests wait in line is that they spend more! While they are standing there, the temptation of your cakes, muffins or pastries become irresistible, something that has been scientifically proven to work by the big chains. So when you are quiet serving your guests too quickly can be detrimental to your sales!
Our Health Checks on coffee businesses fix many of these sales limiting issues in one visit, find out more here
Andrew & Claire Bowen, The Coffeepreneurs, are the Authors of the Amazon best seller, ‘The Daily Grind – how to open and run a coffee shop that makes money’. They are also the founders of Cafe Success, ‘The ultimate resource for coffee shops’. They own and run their own independent coffee shop, Java&Co, based in Oxfordshire, UK. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, they have been franchisee’s, regional franchisees single and multi site operators, as well as developing their own chain of independent coffee shops. They make coffee shop owners more money, by helping them ‘Start Up, Scale Up or Tune Up’ their coffee businesses.