Developing Team Structure

Developing Team Structure

Sep 28th 2021 Written by Ragan LaTour

The adrenaline of opening day has come and gone, things have begun leveling out, and you’ve hired a few highly-driven, like-minded, coffee-loving, baristas to help you run your coffee shop. Sure, they have a lot of the day-to-day operations under control, but your days are still filled with countless other tasks and duties that failed to occur to you during your glorified daydreams of one day opening your own coffee shop.

The good news is that as your small business continues to grow and expand, there will come a time where you are able to hand off some of these hugely important, yet seemingly tedious, tasks to other people. Although this day may seem eons away, it’s important to always keep an eye on the future. Determining early on what tasks you feel comfortable handing off, in addition to those you care to handle yourself, will aid you in deciding what positions to fill in the future.

We have broken down various team roles, the responsibilities they can hold, and how those positions can be expanded upon as the company grows. In addition, we have also developed several organizational charts, depending on the size of your cafe, that will help you envision the possibilities ahead.

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Man hanging plant in coffee shop


In the beginning, as the owner, you wear many different hats. By the end of it, you’ll likely be a qualified accountant, marketing manager, master of inventory, and customer service guru — to name just a few. Your employees, likely made up of only a few baristas starting out, will look to you for all of the answers.

It will be your responsibility to handle tasks like inventory — ensuring there is enough coffee, cups, filters, cleaning supplies — to keep your coffee shop running smoothly, training the baristas to make delicious drinks and keep your customers happy, and of course — paying rent (check out our blog on how to find the right location for your shop). You must also work to successfully market your company through email, events, social media, make the staff’s schedule, and so much more. And yes, a lot of these tasks seem obvious at first, but eventually the may leave you feeling burnt-out, like the vision you once had may be more than you bargained for.

Hopefully by this point all the hard work will be paying off and you'll be getting to a place where you’re capable of delegating some of these tasks to other employees. This will look differently depending on the stage your cafe is in, but eventually, when your business has grown and expanded substantially, all of the tedious tasks will be handed off to others, and your primary focus will be on the growth, direction, and sustainability of your business. Check out the Cat and Cloud podcast to learn more about their company’s growth and how their roles have changed and developed throughout the years.

Man and woman sitting at table with computer


The first additional hire you’re likely to make is a manager. This person will be in charge of many of the day-to-day tasks that you don’t have the time to handle. The role of manager, much like any other role, will look different depending on the size of your cafe.

Early on, in a low-volume cafe, your “manager” may be a shift lead rather than a full-time manager. A shift lead can be a barista you are already employing who shows qualities of being a leader. This employee shows a lot of potential, works hard, and can run the show when you’re not around. Taking on new responsibilities should be accompanied by a pay raise, but is ultimately more cost efficient than adding a new manager to the payroll.

Once you’ve hit a point of substantial growth — higher revenue, more customers, greater demand — making changes may be on the agenda. This could include things like opening for longer hours, hiring new baristas, or perhaps hiring a full-time manager. The ideal manager may vary from person to person, but a strong sense of leadership, organization, and knowledge of the industry (perhaps someone with prior managerial experience) are great qualities to look for. By hiring a store manager you will be able to hand off some of the responsibilities like inventory, training new employees, scheduling, handling aspects of customer service, or even social media. By handing off some tasks to another trusted individual, you'll have more time to look at the bigger picture. Shawn Lynam of the South San Diego BDC suggests the 60/20/20 approach — in short this means, spending 60% of your time handling the things that add value to the business, and the other 40% should be broken up into planning for the future and building a strategy on how to achieve it.

“you will be left with more free-time to spend with your friends and family”

Finally, once you have reached high-volume status and have a couple dozen employees on your payroll, things are flourishing, and you are backed by a loyal customer base, you may look at delegating tasks out even further. Instead of having only a single manager, you may split these roles out even further into focused areas. This could include hiring a marketing manager. Ideally this person has a good sense of social media trends, email marketing, event planning, and has great social skills. This manager will increase your reach within the community and in doing so increase sales.

The store manager would continue to maintain the day-to-day operations and the behind-the-scenes work. In addition to the store manager, you may continue to keep shift leads who help handle the floor. At this point, despite your new found love for spreadsheets, calculators, and filing cabinets, you may want to hire a real accountant to help handle the monetary aspects of the company, someone to ensure the finances stay on target and help manage spending.

Once these roles are comfortably filled, you will be left with more free-time to spend with your friends and family, hobbies, and maybe even a few moments where your thoughts are not consumed by the tedious tasks of the cafe. Instead, you will be left to look towards the future, forge new relationships, and become a visionary again.

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Obviously you’re going to need some people behind the bar if you’re opening a coffee shop. Unfortunately, there is an exact answer to how many baristas you’re going to need to help run your cafe. There are several factors that come into play when determining this. Ask questions like,

  • What hours will you be open?
  • How many shifts will there be?
  • How complicated is the menu?
  • Will you be serving food?

  • Due to the many factors to consider, we cannot give a definitive number, however, we can help you break it down. The most important thing to do is ensure that you have someone available to be behind the bar at all times and a helping hand during busy hours.

    For example, in a smaller shop with a morning rush between 6am-9am, two baristas may be needed behind the bar, not including yourself. Once the rush is over, only one may be necessary until the next shift starts.

    “This ultimately means that you’re going to need more man power behind the bar. ”

    Assuming your employees will be part-time, we recommend having between 4-6 baristas other than yourself to rotate throughout the week and accommodate requests for time off, etc.

    As your business grows your menu may expand and your hours will get longer. This ultimately means that you’re going to need more man power behind the bar. At this point, you’ll need enough baristas to run the various stations. These may include an espresso station, pour over station, or pastries, depending on what you offer. To get a better idea of what this may look like, head over to our blog discussing the importance of bar flow.

    Each cafe's circumstances are different and have different needs to fill. It is up to you to determine how many employees are necessary and sustainable based on volume and revenue.

    We really do understand, you have invested not only your time and money, but likely a fair amount of very real blood, sweat, and tears into your business. You want to see your vision come to life and have it run the way you've always imagined, but it's important to not get completely consumed. You still need to maintain an identity outside of it. Doling out roles to trusted employees will makes that possible. A valuable team can not only help the company grow, but leave you with time to maintain work-to-life balance and explore new possibilities to help your little coffee shop continue to grow and expand.

    If you'd like further assistance in planning your coffee shop, we'd love to help! Feel free to reach out to our commerical services team, and be sure to join the Prima Coffee Community Industry Pro Space for additional resources and join the conversation with other industry professionals.

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    Sep 28th 2021 Ragan LaTour

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