So, what do you do when someone is in line, carrying on a conversation on their phone and decides they would also like to order their coffee? I don't want to ignore them, but I think it's so rude. Not only to me, but also to the person on the other end of the phone call. I know you can put up signs and ask that they finish their conversation first before ordering. What if your boss doesn't like signage? What do you do then?

I didn't see another topic post on this. Sorry if I'm rehashing.

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That's a tough one!  On the one hand you don't want to be rude an ask them to end their conversation before they order, and on the other, they are being rude to you.  I always just try to take their order as efficiently as possible, but most of the time you need to ask them questions to get the complete order.  This is what I would do: Ask the boss what they would like you to do.  If they aren't for putting up signs, then maybe they have advice on how to deal with this particular type of customer.  I find that my boss-man always has good suggestions on how to ask for things kindly without being rude.

I'd ask for the order. If they can't answer, ask the next in line.

Honestly, I don't care if the guest is on their cel phone. It doesn't bother me. My interest is in accommodating the guest as much as possible (and taking their money). I want them to want to spend their money with us, through great service experience and through great coffee.

I gauge each situation individually. If I have their attention, they will make some sort of motion for what they want and we usually end up in some sort of quiet engagement or pantomime that gets the job done. The guest gets their coffee and we make yet another sale.

I'm not interested in putting up barriers for the public to spend their money with our company.

For me it depends on how engrossed in their phone conversation they are. If they can still order and hear what I say, I ring them up and make their drink. If they are in line yet don't hear or notice when it's their turn I move to the next person in line. I try to focus on expediting orders quickly for phone customers while taking a little extra time to make conversation with those that come up phone-less. Although it's rude, like Jay said, they are a customer and want to give me their money.

I'm with Jay on this one. This is a customer service business as much as anything else. Getting the order without creating a fuss is as much a skill as pulling a great shot. Remember its not about us, sometimes people might do rude things sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. Either way kill them with kindness and create reasons other than just great coffee for them to want to come back to your shop instead of the guy down the street. Consider it an opportunity to show off great people skills while effectively getting the job done.

When you combine great people skills with great barista's a no brainer. You win everytime!!


Good luck.



Working in a cafe, I haven't found it too much of a problem. It only takes a second for a customer to say "Small cappuccino, two sugars", so as long as their talking on the phone doesn't slow things down for other customers or make my life difficult, then I don't really care.

My first job was working at a Subway Restaurant. Now that is a job where a customer talking on their phone is a real pain! At Subway you're constantly asking them questions; What bread would you like? Do you want cheese? Would you like all salads? Sauce? Salt & Pepper?? The number of times customers would just nod irritably without listening to what I was asking was incredible, and it was infuriating how many of them would come back five minutes later to state "I didn't ask for cheese/chilli/x/y/z!" When they had nodded quite quickly to my queries about such ingredients.

A cafe is no Subway. The interaction at the register while ordering is brief and simple. However, if a customer on the phone was being a problem I would simply take the following customers' orders instead until they are happy to give me the attention I required - just as I did in Subway!


In my case, it isn't this simple. We have a very expansive menu which involves a lot of questions being asked to the customer. Our shop requires a great deal of interaction between employee and customer. With no exaggeration, I would say that at least half of our customers who order while on a cell phone do not end up with the drink just the way that they wanted it. And then it becomes our fault and responsibility to remake the drink. In a busy shop, that's not only waste, but an extra wait time for other customers. Everybody ends up losing. 


To all:

I haven't found the secret yet. I try to take each case as they come. Given the right scenario, I've tried a couple of things. I have said something like, "I can help you whenever you are ready" trying to hint that being on the cell phone does not equal being ready to interact with an additional human being. In another case, the person was so involved in their conversation, I nodded for the customer behind them to come around and I would take their order first. The cell user somehow noticed, did a quick sidestep to get back in front of them, and proceeded to order while yelling into the phone (actually yelling. they were having a fight). 

In most situations, I just do my best to get as much of their attention as possible so that I can get all the information that I need to make the exact drink that they want.

I hate doing it. I know that this job isn't about ME, but . . . I am a person, not a vending machine, and it is disrespectful to treat me as such. There is always a gas station down the road if that is how people want to behave . . .

 - Ben

Alex said:

Working in a cafe, I haven't found it too much of a problem. It only takes a second for a customer to say "Small cappuccino, two sugars", so as long as their talking on the phone doesn't slow things down for other customers or make my life difficult, then I don't really care.

I think I would probably handle it mostly like I did at Subway then - take the order from the next customer. I know it can seem rude, but it is your business and you must run it as you see fit - and the customer should respect that. Many people in this industry (In America more than other places) follow the "customer is always right" mantra, but I really disagree with it. The customer should show some respect to you, and you should show respect to both yourself and the customer if they've earned it. The problem is one bad customer can ruin your whole day, and you can't avoid it by ignoring customers talking on their phone just as you can't avoid it by attempting to serve them; in one case the customer can go mental at you for serving someone else when they were in line first, but on the other hand if you bugger up their order because they're not giving you their full attention then they may also go nuts.

You're probably handling it the best you can, given the circumstances. I think if you want to be polite about it, perhaps you could stick a sign up. Just a simple sign, clearly visible, in a tappable location stating something along the lines of:

"You will not be served while you are talking on your mobile phone. Please finish your conversation before approaching the counter. Your barista is a person - not a vending machine - please show some respect. Regards, x"

I'll bet if you stick a sign up like that you'll get a lot of people saying "Good on you!" ...A few years back, in Sydney, a cafe was quite renowned for their little anti-phone sign and praised for it in every review they received!

Good luck, whatever you wind up doing! It's pain in the arse situation, but if it's a frequent problem (leading to having to remake drinks too...), then perhaps a sign could help.

I'm sorry, I think it's actually absurd that someone would lose a customer over soy or regular mix up, regardless if the customer was on the phone. If you do the calculations of what it actually costs to get a new customer, the price of a milk dump is nothing. Confronting a customer by saying "had you not been on the phone we could have sorted this out" is rediculous. Dump the milk, make what they want and say something like, I'm sorry for the inconvenience I hesitated asking further questions because I saw you were on the phone, I'm sorry i'll take care of it right now. I'm  pretty certain the next time that customer comes in they will be more careful ordering or they will refrain from using the phone until after the order. Either way, mission accomplished, you still have a loyal customer and everyones happy. Figure out if you have not already done so, what it actually costs in marketing $$ to get a new customer and I would bet this topic never becomes an issue again.

That's just my opinion.



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