I was recently confronted with this issue when out and about getting coffee myself, and was wondering what the general consensus was on here about making coffee for customers at or just after closing time.

 

At my store, my bosses have told us if someone comes in up to 15 minutes after closing time, that we should make coffee for them. This is also at our discretion, if someone comes in even later and we're still making coffee and have customers around we can still make takeaway coffee for them. I agree with my bosses on this- as irritating as it can be at times when you just want to go home, it is good customer service to be flexible with opens and closes (we technically open at 7am but are there making coffee from 6:30am) as it's going that extra mile for the customer.

 

I've encountered attitude when entering a shop as they open, and asking for a coffee just after close. One prominent shop in my area downright refused to make me and my parents takeaway coffee (with quite a bit of "attitude" I might add) despite the fact that they were obviously open as all the staff were there. My olds were very disappointed as they were going on a cruise ship for 5 weeks and knew it'd be their last chance to get a decent New Zealand espresso.

 

And just yesterday at another shop, having already bought a dine-in coffee with my husband, when I asked if I could get a takeaway I was told that the machine was "turned off" (lies!) and felt kind of jipped as it was only 3 minutes past their closing time. Luckily in that circumstance, I tweeted about it and their boss follows me on Twitter, and he apologised and offered a free coffee next time through. That's good customer service! (And the power of Twitter haha). 

 

So, as baristas, what's everyone's opinion on this issue? Would you make a coffee for a customer if they walked in near open or close? Is it just us at my workplace that are ninjas at opening or closing a coffee machine? 

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It can be both time consuming and wasteful to brew a pot of coffee for late arrivals. However, there are plenty of ways to brew a single cup of coffee with minimal time and clean up. Since we do not brew pots of decaf, we are always able to offer customers a decaf either as an espresso/american, with our espro press, or with a hario/coava kone. As a shop owner, it is very important to be able to offer many ways to let people give me their money.

 

 

Yeah, I can understand why brewing a whole pot would be rather wasteful! However, here in NZ, pots haven't really taken off. Our shops are almost always exclusively espresso. It seems to be quite easy to either leave a head on a machine open while the others are cleaned with chemical, or to re-season a machine after running chemical through in order to make an espresso. I'm surprised I've encountered so many baristas making a song and dance about making one more drink a few minutes after close!
Saturday's our roastery coffeehouse location officially closes at 2pm. I made my last beverage at 3:15 and gave them to option of porcelain with the understanding they'd have about 15 min. As long as customers keep coming in we aren't closed yet. We are in a customer service business.

I think you have to look at ths from several different viewpoints.  First, lets look at it as a shop owner...ABSOLUTELY you would want to serve coffee to someone that came in not long after closing.  Second, the viewpont of a paid/scheduled staff member/barista, and just to be real the barista that isn't in love with coffee and there job is just. well. a job. (maybe it is perhaps the wrong line of business for this person to be in but none-the-less).  This is probably where the "attitude" comes from in most cases.  I currently work at a shop where the owners seldemly close the shop and of course if they did close the shop they would do it differently than what the other staff members do.  As far as the baristas go (particularly the ones described above) they are there on a schedule and probably have other things to do when they leave their scheduled time slot (i.e. close the shop) and at that point aren't very concerned with a customers desire after closing time.  Finally, lets look from a consumers point of view, yes, it is very frustrating to not be able to get a good cup of coffee after a shop is closed especially if it is your favorite shop and is very frustrating to get attitude from someone who tells you that they cant serve you a cup of coffee after closing.

 

SO...to sum it up, I think there should be a little wiggle room on all viewpoints.  To the shop owner, well done, you made a few extra dollars and possibly a few respect points from the customer, but keep in mind that your staff dont own your shop therefore may not have the same drve for your customers as you do, respect your staff tho, who knows they might learn something that way.  To the barista good job for fulfilling your scheduled time slot and closing the shop with speed, but remember to be a little flexible as you may not understand exactly what is going on in that 'late' customers life that day (realizing that they too dont understand what is going on in yours) you may just make their day.  To the consumer, well we are in the customer service business and will delightfully serve you and we so appreciate the fact that you chose the particular coffee shop that you did (apologies if you didnt get good service) but realize none the less that it is a 'business' and that there are closing times and much to be done after closing so be respectful of that and the people who choose to serve you or not serve you.

You got that right Mike!

Mike McGinness said:
Saturday's our roastery coffeehouse location officially closes at 2pm. I made my last beverage at 3:15 and gave them to option of porcelain with the understanding they'd have about 15 min. As long as customers keep coming in we aren't closed yet. We are in a customer service business.

You can totally wash one side of the machine at a time. And then, if someone comes afterward, use the clean side, and rinse. No need to reclean, its real simple.

 

I understand wanting to leave early, but as someone dedicated to my craft, I think accepting customers til the moment you leaves allows more profit AND can make it evident that maaaybe the hours need to be changed.

its a big pain, but its our trade. customers and espresso are our jobs. do them :)

by that i mean espresso, unless you're in to that....

lol

My policy has always been... Closing time at 3pm(for example), but so long as I'm still in the middle of making a coffee I'll keep going - Which has kept me open for over an hour, once! However, when the customers stop, whether it is at 3pm or 3:17pm, the group handles come off and I start cleaning the machine. Once that happens there is no more coffee because there is chemical in the machine - I'm not going to give a customer a coffee with cafetto espresso machine cleaner in it, no matter how much they beg or think it's unjust. Doesn't matter if its 3:02 - when the machine starts being cleaned, thats it.

 

And frankly, cafe owners that insist you still serve 15 minutes after close annoy me - if you're still serving coffee at 3:15, why doesn't it just say on the door "open until 3:15"??

 

Logic escapes some people.

There's a reasonable balance.


It is important that the expectations need to be clearly communicated and consistent across staff.

 

Sometimes, that last drink sets you back 2 minutes, other times it may be more like 10. While I agree that running one shot through a freshly-cleaned machine isn't a big deal, reloading the grinder, then re-purging and cleaning after the shot is finished is a time-consuming and wasteful endeavor. There are only so many closing steps that you can do before really closing, anyway.

 

Back when I used to close, I'd continue to take orders (to-go only) until it meant re-washing dishes or messing with the closed register, unless there was somewhere else I needed to be.

 

Alex, the "serve for 15 minutes after close" policy makes sense... those managers are clearly communicating their expectations to their staff, and want to be the shop that exceeds customer expectations by making a drink 10 minutes after closing. Denying a drink right after closing creates a negative customer experience. That's why we're discussing this after all... Think about it: who's going to complain about being denied a drink 20 minutes after closing? Who's not going to complain about being denied a drink 2 minutes after closing? Moving the closing time later changes the customer's expectation, and reduces your ability to exceed it.

I think although I strongly disagree with a "serve for 15 minutes after close" policy, I will concede that different cafes will always suit different policies.

 

For me, running a shot through a freshly cleaned machine IS a big deal. After a very busy day of 700+ coffees, we would pop the baskets out of the handles, soak them in cafetto, unscrew the shower screens and scrubbing thoroughly both the screen, screw, and the plate in the group above the screens, while backflushing each group until the water runs clear. The steamwand is scrubbed to get any milk scum off, and then the grinder is emptied and brushed clean. There is a lot to do during close, and the machine area alone takes all the work of one person for usually about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the other person does the dishes, packs up the tables, and tries to finish everything as quickly as possible so when the machine is done all that needs to be done is mop the floor and lock up.

 

Our customers always knew how hard we worked and understood if they got down stairs from the office one-minute-late and saw me unscrewing the groups. And generally, when you explain to a complaining late customer that you've put toxic cleaning solution into the machine they tend to understand. If they said "such-and-such a cafe still serves after they close", I would respond by telling them I wouldn't value the coffee from a cafe that doesn't take the utmost care of their machine (a lot of cafes don't).

 

And like I said, although I never operated a "serve for 15 minutes after close" policy, our customers all knew our closing time and would race down from their offices just before close to get their last coffee - which would usually keep us open between 15 and 30 minutes longer anyway because I will never deny a customer if I'm still halfway through dealing with another. I won't stop until there are NO potential customers visible. 

 

And before you say "if the customers hold you open for 30 minutes later anyway, why not change your opening hours?", I tried it - they still do the same frantic mad dash at the very last minute to get a coffee. It didn't actually increase sales at all.

 

I understand the "customer experience" thing about a "serve for 15 minutes after close" policy, but the logic of it drives me mental. If its after closing hours a customer should never expect to be served. If you're a customer and still get served - fantastic! Lucky you! But when it becomes an expectation then I think that it becomes a problem. You've created in them a mindset that the times written on the door don't really mean much. I believe a customers expectations aren't exceeded if they can expect to get a coffee at 3:12pm every day - you're simply meeting their expectations. And I don't think it's in a good way. There are better ways to exceed their expectations.

 

I think you're right, we're probably just going to disagree on the policy side, but I take issue with a couple of things that you said.

 

If you are actually using a "toxic cleaning solution" you are endangering your customers health and should stop immediately. Any espresso detergent must be non-toxic, NSF approved for use on food service equipment. It may not taste good, and should be rinsed well before the machine is used, but it is not toxic.

 

Your suggestion that shops that serve espresso after close are somehow neglecting their machines is a pretty big stretch. If you work cleanly during the day and develop an efficient breakdown routine there is no reason the breakdown should take half an hour. There should NEVER be any milk residue on the steamwand... this an issue that can be resolved with training. And are you backflushing all of your groups simultaneously?

 

Those that want to be able to accommodate late requests simply work one group at a time. For example, when I do maintenance visits at my customers, I'll often tear down, clean, replace gaskets and screens, backflush, and reseason the groups, soak handles and baskets, replace retaining springs, and even rebuild steamwand joints while the barista continues to make drinks on the other groups. Performing all of this work on a 3-group machine generally takes me less than half an hour.

 

I can understand how exaggerating about the intensity involved in the end-of-day breakdown makes it easier to shut down a customer request, but please find a way to do this without throwing the equally-conscientious yet more accommodating operators under the bus.

 

It is your policy, and I'm not disagreeing with your choice. I'm just saying that "you won't" does not equal "you can't", and certainly doesn't equal "a conscientious operator wouldn't".


Alex said:

I think although I strongly disagree with a "serve for 15 minutes after close" policy, I will concede that different cafes will always suit different policies.

 

For me, running a shot through a freshly cleaned machine IS a big deal. After a very busy day of 700+ coffees, we would pop the baskets out of the handles, soak them in cafetto, unscrew the shower screens and scrubbing thoroughly both the screen, screw, and the plate in the group above the screens, while backflushing each group until the water runs clear. The steamwand is scrubbed to get any milk scum off, and then the grinder is emptied and brushed clean. There is a lot to do during close, and the machine area alone takes all the work of one person for usually about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the other person does the dishes, packs up the tables, and tries to finish everything as quickly as possible so when the machine is done all that needs to be done is mop the floor and lock up.

 

Our customers always knew how hard we worked and understood if they got down stairs from the office one-minute-late and saw me unscrewing the groups. And generally, when you explain to a complaining late customer that you've put toxic cleaning solution into the machine they tend to understand. If they said "such-and-such a cafe still serves after they close", I would respond by telling them I wouldn't value the coffee from a cafe that doesn't take the utmost care of their machine (a lot of cafes don't).

 

And like I said, although I never operated a "serve for 15 minutes after close" policy, our customers all knew our closing time and would race down from their offices just before close to get their last coffee - which would usually keep us open between 15 and 30 minutes longer anyway because I will never deny a customer if I'm still halfway through dealing with another. I won't stop until there are NO potential customers visible. 

 

And before you say "if the customers hold you open for 30 minutes later anyway, why not change your opening hours?", I tried it - they still do the same frantic mad dash at the very last minute to get a coffee. It didn't actually increase sales at all.

 

I understand the "customer experience" thing about a "serve for 15 minutes after close" policy, but the logic of it drives me mental. If its after closing hours a customer should never expect to be served. If you're a customer and still get served - fantastic! Lucky you! But when it becomes an expectation then I think that it becomes a problem. You've created in them a mindset that the times written on the door don't really mean much. I believe a customers expectations aren't exceeded if they can expect to get a coffee at 3:12pm every day - you're simply meeting their expectations. And I don't think it's in a good way. There are better ways to exceed their expectations.

 

For the record, I totally agree with this statement. The part I take issue with is the suggestion that somehow this is tied to serving coffee after close. Figured I'd clarify.

Alex said:

...I wouldn't value the coffee from a cafe that doesn't take the utmost care of their machine (a lot of cafes don't).

Well, there comes a point, doesn't there, when you are indeed shut and staff still on and cleaning. Coffee brewed into thermal pots is the last task before punching out, which may be a half hour after posted closing. But, at a point thermal pots and machines are being cleaned or broken down for cleaning. We try to be as accommodating as possible and will, at coffee cup price, do an Americano IF the espresso machine has not been taken off line for cleaning. Oh, always smile.

Troy L Mallett said:

It can be both time consuming and wasteful to brew a pot of coffee for late arrivals. However, there are plenty of ways to brew a single cup of coffee with minimal time and clean up. Since we do not brew pots of decaf, we are always able to offer customers a decaf either as an espresso/american, with our espro press, or with a hario/coava kone. As a shop owner, it is very important to be able to offer many ways to let people give me their money.

 

 

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