Eight Tips for Café Customers

A few days ago, I wrote about what makes a good café. Today I would like to talk about what it takes to be a good customer. As customers there are a few things we ought to do to help make the café experience a pleasure for everyone involved. I talked to some local baristas for ideas, and as a former barista I have my own insights too.

Everyone ought to work in the food service industry at least once in their lives. People would be a lot more reasonable and patient with each other if they did because they would realize how hard it is to keep people happy. Serving coffee is not as difficult as serving food, but baristas are still in the business of serving others, which is never easy. It is fun most of the time, but once in a while you have a customer who is a real pain. We would like to avoid that, so here are some things to remember when you go to a café:

  1. Don’t talk on your phone while you are ordering. Tell the person you’re talking with you will call him or her back and put the phone down (unlike driving, using a hands-free device doesn’t count). Your conversation is not so important that it can’t wait 30 seconds. If it is that important, you shouldn’t be in line at the café in the first place. If you don’t stop talking when you get to the counter, you get decaf. No exceptions.
  2. Have a little patience, please. You’re not the only one in the world who wants your coffee and the barista isn’t trying to make you wait any longer than necessary (unless of course, you violate rule #1).
  3. If you like faster service, introduce yourself to the baristas and be predictable in what you order. If the baristas remember you and your drink, they will often start making it before you ever get to the counter.
  4. Hand your money directly to the person at the register. Don’t toss it down on the counter. In addition to being rude, it slows down everyone’s service.
  5. Leave a tip once in a while. You don’t have to leave a big tip—some change is fine—but baristas don’t make a lot of money and tips make a big difference to them (You’re also welcome to leave a big tip—we danced around the store one Christmas day after a woman left a $100 tip). Leaving tips won’t the hurt the quality of service you receive either.
  6. If you need something and the barista is carrying a bunch of drinks to customers, wait until she is done delivering them before you stop her to explain your situation. Standing there with an armful of drinks gets tiring, and you don’t want her to spill them. This is something that customers do without realizing they are making their barista’s life difficult.
  7. If you’re not going to buy anything from the café, but you still ask to use the bathroom, be polite about it. If you have to ask for a key to the bathroom, act appreciative when you get it (When you do get to use the bathroom, use it right. I’ve seen some pretty bad  results in café  bathrooms. Come on, people! Be civilized!)
  8. If you are someone who camps at a café that has Wi-Fi, you ought to buy more than just one drink, especially if the café is crowded. Your presence at a table may discourage more customers from coming into the café. My personal rule is one drink every two hours.

These are just a few things that can make your trip to the café more pleasant for everyone. I’m sure some of you could think of a few more. Feel free to share them. The most important thing to remember is that the person behind the counter works in the ‘service’ industry and not the ‘servant’ industry. If you can’t remember to treat people with dignity and respect, stay home and make your own coffee. Everyone will be happier that way.