Running multiple cafés?: Why team engagement is your secret sauce
Like most café owners, you may be thinking about growing your business by opening another café. Maybe not right now, but soon.
Oliver had the same dream, and with his first café doing quite well he decided to open a second. But it wasn’t long before he ran into major problems, and he almost lost the business.
Why? Because he hadn’t spent any time improving team engagement. His employees weren’t empowered to step into his shoes and take on new roles.
This case study explained what happened, and how he finally managed to turn it all around.
Oliver owned a café that was doing quite well, largely because of the long hours he spent working there. In fact, it was doing so well that he decided to expand his business by opening up another café.
Unfortunately, he soon realised he couldn’t work at both businesses. He had to choose one or the other. And seeing as the newer business needed more of his time, he decided to focus his efforts there.
But there was a problem: he’d never spent time increasing team engagement at his established café. He tried running it autonomously, but while everything was fine when he was around, as soon as he left the business fell apart. Soon the business was close to failure, and unless Oliver made some radical changes he’d have to close it down.
Is hiring a manager the answer?
He hired an experienced manager named Chris to ‘step up to the plate’ while he was away. But there was no real hierarchy in place (there wasn’t even an assistant manager). So while Chris was hired as a manager, he was effectively the assistant manager because Oliver still insisted on making all the executive decisions—despite the fact he wanted it to be the other way around.
Like most business, there were issues. Chris felt he had to ask Oliver to make a decision on each one. But Oliver was too busy at the other café to even answer him, let alone spend time on the ever-growing list of issues Chris was dealing with.
It wasn’t long before sales started dropping.
Oliver couldn’t afford to spend more time and money fixing the problems. He was low on resources as it was. He thought his team should be able to take control and sort them all out. After all, isn’t that what he hired Chris to do? Oliver was also concerned about not having the time or the expertise to establish a hierarchy and training plan for his team. It meant the team wouldn’t know how to make key decisions in the business, and that he’d just be throwing money at a sinking ship trying to keep it afloat.
Getting a fresh perspective
Finally, as he was getting close to breaking point, Oliver hired an external party to review the current situation. They quickly established a team hierarchy, and put a training plan in place. The reviewers then suggested that Oliver promote an assistant manager from within to give Chris some much-needed help and support. They also helped Oliver set clear expectations and boundaries, giving more control to the team and empowering the management team to make more decisions without needing to involve Oliver. This focused their training on how to run a business, which provided a lot of insight—even for Oliver.
And the result?
Oliver managed to free up a significant amount of time to devote to his new venture, He turned his failing business into a profitable one, and is no longer involved in the day-to-day running of either business. Thanks to ongoing external training, the team is more engaged and actually manage themselves. And new team members can see a clear pathway to managing a future business.
Oliver’s story isn’t unique. A lot of café owners struggle when trying to open another café. And while improving team engagement won’t always make it plain sailing, it will certainly make things easier.
Does your café business need a fresh perspective?
If you’re having trouble growing your café business, or would like to know more about how you can improve engagement within your team, get in touch with us so we can talk about it over a coffee.
One of yours, if you like.