WMF UK Coffee Machines Blog

Is table service the future for coffee shops?

31-Aug-2018 14:32:48 by WMF Marketing Team


Since the boom of coffee culture in the UK began, coffee shops have been using a modified version of the Italian model of counter service as standard. This means that customers queue up at the counter to be served, with the focus being on specially trained baristas producing the drinks as quickly as possible while the customer waits. More and more coffee shops in the UK and throughout Europe have been starting to experiment with using table service as an alternative, shifting the focus to creating the most relaxing environment possible where customers aren’t forced to queue up to be served. While this may seem like it would come at the expense of speed and efficiency, could it potentially end up yielding more profits?


Table vs counter service

There are pros and cons associated with each approach, so the answer isn’t necessarily as straight forward as you might hope. Conventional logic would dictate that maximising the amount of coffee you can produce would mean more profit, however with table service the waiting staff have a much bigger selling opportunity available to them. They can build a rapport with the customers much more easily and going back to offer more drinks is just seen as good customer service.

As well as the upsell opportunities you must consider pricing, as many people will expect to pay slightly more at cafés or restaurants with table service. It builds an entirely different atmosphere and will attract a different kind of clientele, so while you may lose customers who just come in to grab a quick coffee on the go, you would gain the customers that will sit and stay for a while and value the more personal service.

coffee shop queue

 Coffee shop queue - table service would reduce significantly 


A step (or a flight) further…

Why not take it a step even further and deliver coffee to your customers via a drone. Yes you read that correctly, IBM have a patent to develop a coffee drone, but not just to deliver coffee, but to predict when someone may need a caffeine based on Fitbit’s statistics (or other fitness trackers) and who not to serve based on medical history.

IBM drone 2IBM drone 1

 Images taken from Patent and Trademark Office  

IBM suggests the drone could be equipped with technology to detect blood pressure, pupil dilation and facial expressions and judge whether people are drowsy.

Opinions seem rather undecided on the topic, is this brilliant use of technology to enhance customer experience or is it creepy giving a bot all your information to determine if you ‘need’ a coffee?


Which is best for me?  

Which model will work best for you will depend on a whole range of factors:

  • Space – This one is probably the most important factor. You need to have enough room to seat a large enough number of people to make table service a viable alternative.
  • Location – If your shop is right next to a train station and your main business is commuters, moving to table service may push out your more regular customers.
  • Staff – Would you need to hire additional staff to manage the table service? You definitely need to include this in your calculations to see which would be more profitable.
  • Pricing – In order to turn a higher profit, would you need to increase prices, and if so by how much? 

One way to approach changing over to table service whilst minimising the impact on profit would be to add a level of automation to your coffee making process. For example, using the WMF Espresso machine you can speed up beverage production with fully automated grinding and tamping, meaning that waiting staff could make the drinks without the need for an experienced barista. You could go one step further with fully automated bean-to-cup machines like the WMF 1500 S+, completely negating the need for trained baristas, meaning the waiting staff can also be responsible to making the drinks with no need for specialist training at all.

Download  a brochure to see the full range of WMF coffee machines and related products.


Topics: Coffee Technology, Coffee Shop, Table service

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Written by WMF Marketing Team

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