Cafe Survival Guide

The Ultimate Cafe Survival Guide

Interview with Sam Low, Former NZ Barista Champion

Thinking of starting a café and serving exceptional coffee? Sounds like you are as passionate about coffee as Sam Low, one of New Zealand’s best-known baristas and former NZ Barista Champion. Sam is also a food and beverage creative, a hospitality training consultant, and has a wealth of experience running successful cafes and restaurants in NZ, Australia and Canada.

We asked Sam to share his wisdom on successful café business practices, as well as useful tips on perfect latte art, how to hire great staff, and his prediction of future coffee trends.

Small talk, big impact!

Sam recommends that genuine small talk with your customers can make a huge impact on creating loyalty. Ask your regular customers their name and find out what they do. Maybe their workplace is nearby and perhaps they will recommend you to their colleagues or could link you to other potential customers?

“Ask your regulars for their opinion on your café, or even something as simple as if they have enjoyed the new cookie recipe or if they like the brand of oat milk you use,” suggests Sam. The smallest things make a huge impact on creating loyalty with your customers, as they will feel they have been part of the success of your café.

3 Basics to Get Right

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1. Staff

Choose the right staff.  They may not necessarily have the right skills yet (upskilling can be done relatively easily) but they share the same vision and goals. It means they are willing to not only help the business succeed, but feel proud of helping the business achieve its goals.

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2. Systems

Make sure you implement systems to ensure that your staff and products are consistent. Have instructions and recipes on how each item is made and served to ensure customers get the same product every time - this will help with food costs and inventory management. 

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3. Training

Training benefits everyone. It helps reduce staff turnover, and provides your employees the opportunity to grow in knowledge.

Set up your own training program, whether it be food, coffee or staff management. You could do this on a module-based system, or as a monthly team meeting.

Engage with other industry experts

Invite experts like coffee trainers, chefs, or experts from your suppliers to come in and educate your team. These events improve product knowledge and skill sets, and are excellent team building exercises.

Helpful Resources

A list of helpful resources found in this article

Recipes - a curated list of must have cafe recipes 

TrainingNZ Specialist Coffee Association have a range of for barista courses and training information

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