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Building Hospitality Skills

Building Hospitality Skills

Building Hospitality Skills


Building Hospitality Skills

“There was a time when businesses could rise above their competitors based on quality. These days the way you’ll rise above the rest is based on how you make your customers feel.” - Danny Meyer, author of “Setting the Table”


Our goal is to have an excellent, caring, and kind community of hard-working people showing hospitality to our customers through coffee.

Hospitality is a value we want to infuse in everything we do. It's the way we smile or don't smile, the way we place a drink on the counter, the way we greet a customer or resolve a customer complaint that brings people back to the shop. 

In order to develop as a hospitality professional, we study our customers to learn and adjust as we serve them. Excellence in hospitality is a habit. 

But what if high empathy service is not natural for you? It can become natural by practice and this blog post can help!

Guide to Building Your Hospitality Skills in the Coffee Shop

Part One: The Hospitality Workflow

  1. Be prepared to serve with your proximity and body language.
  2. Welcome/greet the customer, with eye contact and a smile, and wait for their response.
  3. Take their order and repeat it for confirmation. Let them know where it will be ready and that it will be just a minute.
  4. Let the customer know when their order is ready or bring it out to them if they are occupied.
  5. Stay alert to their needs from a distance during their stay. 
  6. Address them as they leave before they reach the door.


Part Two: Poise & Professionalism in the Shop

  • Greeting
    • Stand up straight and look ready to serve.
    • Make sure you greet people with eye contact and a smile. No “Welcome to Walgreens.” Our greeting and farewell is not a weapon or a chore.
    • Remember to make them feel “Acknowledged, Welcome, Included.”
  • During Ordering
    • Ask as few questions as possible to break up the monotony when needing to ask many.
    • Listen actively to form a solution to any confusion and give space during order for clarity.
    • Have something small to do to break any awkward tension.
  • Drink Making + Serving
    • People still need to be included while waiting for drinks.
    • Hand drinks off with eye contact and thank the customer.
    • Place ordered items on counter with a slight pause to give the action purpose, not hastily or abruptly.
    • Be prepared to take orders to prep while an order for an easy drink or just a pastry is in progress.
    • Do not call out drinks if you do not have the attention of the one who ordered it.
    • Situations:
      • Handing people change – do coins first in hand, then bills.
      • Taking customers in a crowd or during a rush – greet/acknowledge 5 back or more.
      • Take drinks out if people cannot hear or are preoccupied – calling drinks should be pleasant and with eye contact.
      • If a customer ordered multiple items, and one comes out before the other – Bring the customer the remainder of the order. We do not want the customer to have to rise from their seat more than once. Otherwise, you should try to have their entire order come out at once.
      • When you see that a customer has left dirty dishes on a table – Clean them up as soon as possible. This ensures the next customer doesn’t have to sit with them or have to do our job of cleaning them up.
  • During a Lull
    • Go about the checklists and SOPs but with your head on a swivel to address new or existing customers’ questions or needs.
  • Out in the Café
    • Be ready to answer questions about beans and engage people about them.
    • Be on the lookout for signs that customers need help.
    • We do not want to be out there in our own task-oriented world... we are in their world and should be sensitive to it.
  • Cleaning - Bus Tables that Need It​​​​​​​
    • Spray only behind the bar onto a towel and take the towel out onto the floor. Clouds of spray do not smell or taste good.
    • Sweeping the floors must be done discreetly and maintain a distance of 6 feet minimum away from customers, unless it is an emergency.
  • Speech
    • Use discretion in your conversation with customers. Be mindful not to alienate customers with personal opinions on religion, politics, etc.
    • Once an order is placed, direct the customer to the pickup area and let them know that it will be right out for them, or that it will be a moment if there is a line or a drink that takes a little longer to make.
      • Exception: If there is no line and the customer just orders a drip coffee you may give the customer their drink right where they are at the register area.


Part Three: How to CRUSH it on the Register

  • Urgency​​​​​​​
    • We never want a customer to feel as though they’ve interrupted or inconvenienced us. They are our top priority, so we need to make them feel that way. The first way to do this is through urgency to be on the register, the minute a customer walks through the door or even looks as though they are approaching the register.
    • Rule of Thumb: Unless you are fulfilling a previous customer’s order, stop what you are doing (dishes, talking to your manager, talking to another customer, etc.) and approach the register confidently and with an attitude of empathy.
  • Confidence​​​​​​​
    • The customer needs to feel like you’ve got everything under control and that you have all the answers. Some customers don’t know what they want, while some know exactly what they want. They need to feel that they can ask a question and that their question will be answered.
    • Equip yourself with produce and procedural knowledge. If you don’t know the answer, gracefully say “I actually don’t know the answer to that, let me find out.” Proceed to find out.
  • Detail​​​​​​​
    • We need to be able to pay close attention to a number of different areas. The main one, of course, is the customer in front of us. Always double checking for clarity by repeating back details of their order. We are also making sure to guide them as they finish their order to know where to pick it up. In addition to the customer in front of us, we are paying attention to the line behind them and our co-worker behind us.
    • The register is the steering wheel of the café, and it is our job to control and finesse the station to manage the needs of the customer and our co-workers, so the result is a great coffee hospitality experience.
  • Warmth​​​​​​​
    • Every customer should be treated with warmth and friendliness. Smile and be aware of the tone of your voice. Stay away from becoming monotone and automated.
    • Make it your goal to interact with customers and make their day just a little better.
  • Empathy​​​​​​​
    • Not only should we treat people the way we want to be treated, but we should also exceed their expectations. This means going above just “getting what they want.” but also suggesting ideas or being helpful and suggestive when they seem unsure or confused.
    • Sometimes we get requests that aren’t generally on our menu. If it’s in our power to do it, do it!


Part Four: Navigating Potentially Difficult Situations, Complaints & Order Discrepancies

Resolving Complaints & Order Discrepancies

​​​​​If we make customers feel welcome at all times, they should always leave feeling happy with their experience. When there is a complaint or order discrepancy, we can follow a few general guidelines:
  • Be tactful, stay focused on resolving the issue. Remember it’s not about you and be gracious.
  • Don’t ever correct or argue with customers. Period. You can focus on reaching clarity about any confusing issue, but never use an aggressive tone.
  • Always remake a drink if there is an issue with the customer’s order. With any order discrepancy, just assume responsibility, make sure the customer’s concern is validated and they know they have been heard, and finally apologize if it is appropriate to do so.
  • Offer a solution that includes a gracious stance on your resolve to make them leave with more than they expected. Free Drink of Choice Cards, etc.
  • If you are being degraded personally, that is not ok. You can be firm in your personhood and let them know assertively that it is wrong to do such a thing to another human being. However, your first priority should be to disarm the situation and not enter into further arguments.


Navigating Potentially Difficult & Inappropriate Situations

It can be hard to be welcoming when you are dealing with potentially difficult, inappropriate, or awkward situations. When these situations arise, here are some strategies:

  • If a person has been kicked out of the shop for any reason by leadership staff and they come back
    • Please ask them to leave immediately. If they give you any pushback, just say to them, “Our management has already talked to you about why you can’t come in here, please leave. Thank you.” Just repeat that – don’t engage in argument or take it personally.
    • Call the police if necessary and inform your shop lead or shop operations manager immediately.
  • If a belligerent, inebriated, inappropriate, or harassing customer is making you or customers feel unsafe or uncomfortable
    • Call the police (local division first, then 911) and inform your shop lead or shop operations manager of the situation as soon as possible.
  • If it is before the shop opens or after it closes
    • Before our official opening time, you do not have to let anyone come into the shop if you are uncomfortable.
    • 10 minutes before we close, it is good to go around to customers and let them know we will be closing shortly. At closing time, ask people to leave because we are closed. It is unacceptable to have customers in the shop while you are counting the drawer.
  • If a person comes in soliciting customers
    • Tell them they cannot sell anything or ask for money from our customers. Politely ask them to leave immediate and inform your shop lead or shop operations manager as soon as possible.


In the end, through the personal encounter a customer has with an employee or the relationship we have with each other is the thing that starts the whole ship.


Our culture is one of simple and sincere kindness expressed through providing an exceedingly and ever improving coffee experience for our customers and each other.


This blog post was created by Chris Deferio - Keys to the Shop. Join Chris at a Coffee Fest show and learn more about our industry-leading education now!

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