Six minutes. Twenty minutes. Those are our target times for your coffee and food orders to be made and delivered to you at Derailleur. Five-and-a-half-years work has created these KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators). You might be surprised by how much goes on behind the scenes in a café like ours, so let me share.
Coffee and cafes are a competitive marketplace. There are no barriers to entry in our industry; anyone with the cash can open the doors to their own café.
Trust me, there’s more to running Derailleur than buying a second-hand Boema coffee maker and some restaurant furniture from Grey’s Online. All of which, ironically, are up for sale because their last owner indulged their fantasy of running a corner café with little success. Many café start-ups fail; it’s a competitive industry, and you need a solid offering to be able to sustain your business in the long run.
It’s easy to talk about the fresh food products that go into your meal (we smoke our chicken, bake our bread and support the local farmer's market where we can BTW) but underpinning these are plans, systems, processes and lots of staff training. Cafés are small businesses, after all.
We work on training staff for the future, that’s why we have a first and a third-year apprentice plus a school-based trainee from Wangaratta High School in the kitchen. We also have a front-of-house trainee right now. We make an effort to find places for any other trainees needing to complement their training. There's a shortage of skilled hospitality workers in Australia; that’s why training is so important to our industry.
Over the past five-and-a-half years, we’ve developed plans and processes that work for us and enable our team to efficiently create and serve your food and coffee. Preparation is key. Where's that checklist? Has the cafe been restocked, the coffee machine cleaned and the drinks fridge restocked? Has the kitchen team completed their prep? The dishwasher back-washed and the cutlery polished? Are the tables reserved, staff lunch breaks completed and sections allocated? Who swept the courtyard? Are the lunch specials written up, staff briefed and low items double-checked? It’s quarter-to-twelve and we’re half full already: brace yourselves it’s going to be a busy one!
Day in, day out, that's our rhythm.
You have to have experienced it many times over to know that the crazy chaos of a cafe is normal; you learn to love it. That rhythm. Your love for it comes from experience, from working with others in successful, busy hospitality businesses and learning from their mistakes. You read everything written about food. Follow blogs in the USA like Serious Eats, Instagram accounts like Mad About Copenhagen, read Delicious to see what people are cooking at home and then Gourmet Traveller to view the national trends.
Then think: how do we fit into these trends? With what and how? What can we do better, what's next or don’t change yet? Which cafes are new in Melbourne and are they unique? A new cafe has opened up; check it out. Research, test, think - it doesn't stop. You see what works and what doesn't - and you change things. Quickly!
Occasionally, dear customer, your order might be a little late, and if that happens be sure to tell our team. The challenge of quick, quality service gives us a chance to prove ourselves and to work more efficiently.
Each of us at the cafe has a job to do. Can we help that customer who's in a hurry to catch the train? Track that misplaced meal or a wrong drink order? Negative feedback is an opportunity in disguise. It's a push to be faster and better and at the end of the day when there’s breathing space found, a customer’s criticism is a prompt to look again at our systems and see how we might improve.
It’s humbling to reflect on what makes Derailleur unique and gives our customers reasons to keep coming back. Your loyalty and belief in our food is amazing.
Now that you know about the six and twenty-minute rules, perhaps next time you’re in you’ll see our team differently and spend your wait time looking more closely to see our systems, communication and processes in action!