They say things always come in three's; so when the coffee machine, dishwasher and high-speed oven decided to stop working in the week before Christmas, the good news is that we had all bases covered. What are your emergency plans?

In the past, any one of these issues could have sent us into a tailspin, but strangely enough, even though these breakdowns upped the stress levels in the bar, we lost virtually no trade due to them, as only three guests decided not to stay that day.

It also goes without saying that qualified engineers regularly service all these pieces of equipment. Over our time in the coffee business, we have developed relationships with suppliers who we can rely on to respond quickly when the inevitable happens. After all when most of your equipment uses water and electricity together things will go wrong.

The dreaded coffee machine failure is probably the hardest to work around as a coffee shop without coffee is just a shop! Having a contingency plan for when critical aspects of our business let us down is something that we had developed and has put us in good stead when we had these recent failures.

So we thought it would be a good idea to share with you some of the things we have in place to mitigate any losses that may incur through breakdowns or issues in your coffee business:

1 Coffee Machine Broken

When the big beast decides to have a rest, then all is not lost.
Serve filter coffee. If you don't sell filter coffee as standard then having a filter coffee maker on standby is a good idea, if you buy a couple of domestic versions, then they are inexpensive and can gratify your customer need for caffeine in a slightly different way. If you offer a special price or free cookie as well, many customers will accept it as their good fortune out of your problem.
Having a kettle on standby will cover all tea needs and some thermos jugs will help you deal with peak demand easier.
The last thing you want people to do is not to come in because you have a big sign on the door saying NO COFFEE and visit a competitor.

2. Dishwasher Broken

When this cleaning workhorse puts its feet up you can very quickly be overrun with dirty cups and dishes. This piece of machinery is a real labour savour when working so getting an extra member of the team in might be an option. The simplest thing we have found is to offer only take away cups, although this adds to your costs it will smooth out the operation while the dishwasher is getting repaired.

3. Oven Broken

If you lose the use of your oven to bake, heat or reheat food then the first thing to have is a different menu ready as the default.
We have a high-speed combination oven that we use to heat all food, and if that goes down, we default to the panini grill. If you don't have a panini grill, then a domestic version like the filter coffee maker is a cheap purchase that could tie you over for a few hours.
If you bake your own pasties then having an arrangement with a local restaurant or pub to bake them off for you might save you.

4 Till Down

When the till goes down don't panic; a calculator, a blank template and a pen for recording sales will suffice, an emergency cash float and lockable tin are good to have if the till draw does not open. Again this will slow down the service so you should also back it up with a sign near the till apologising to guests.

5 Fridges Broken

If you have total power failure then keeping all door closed on the fridges will save the food for a few hours, if a display fridge goes down then again we have a combination of a smaller menu and good signage prepared to allow us to carry on selling.

Make sure everyone knows what to do if this happens in your coffee shop; where the equipment, procedures and signage are kept. So your team now what to do to keep your guests happy even if you aren't there.

Remember to keep Calm and Carry on and write your contingency plans now!

PS It's not true about things coming in three's as our heating packed up at home that week too!

This article was first published on CoffeeBi



About the Authors

Andrew & Claire Bowen are the authors of 'The Daily Grind - how to open & run a coffee shop that makes money' Available on Amazon, and Founders of Cafe Success - the ultimate resource site for coffee shop, cafe and tea room owners worldwide.

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