January 14, 2016

Barista Skills: 7 Ways to Make a Great First Impression


Think back to your first impression of your first favourite coffee shop – real coffee shop, that is, not the chain ones you went to before you knew what coffee was. You probably went in because everyone talked about it, or because it had a cool sign, but what was it that made you decide to return again and again?

We’re betting a lot of that decision was based on your first impression – even if you didn’t realise it.

First impressions are crucial. They’re a chance to capture your customers’ attention and show them how great your coffee is, even before they’ve taken their first sip. And while it’s difficult to recover from a bad one, you have the power to make every first impression a great first impression.

Spanish Version: Vida Barista: 7 Consejos Para Una Buena Primera Impresión

You see, first impressions are based on a thousand little clues that, consciously or subconsciously, we take as a guarantee of quality and service. By understanding this, and providing the right clues, we can reassure our customers that they’re going to get that great coffee they’re craving.

So read on for the top seven changes you can make to get those customers returning.

  1. Keep Your Shop Clean

Clean like it’s your job, because it is. Keep the tables wiped down, the floors swept, the bathrooms clean, and the space organized. Make sure entryways are always as clean as the rest of the shop because it’s what customers see first. Keep the bar space clean and don’t think that because an area’s behind it that customers can’t see it.

In doing so, you’re quietly letting customers know that you take the same level of care with their drinks. The space you’re in is a big part of the first impression you give off, so do everything you can to make it a good one.

cleaning the floor of a coffee shop

Cleanliness is a big part of a first impression. Credit: jarmoluk, Pixabay

  1. Greet People With a Smile – Not a Shout

Every customer that walks in should receive eye contact and a smile. It’s a subtle way to let them know that you’re glad they’re here and, as of such, will do your best to give them a great coffee.

It’s also much better than yelling “hello” at people. Seriously, on behalf of the world’s introverts, please stop doing this. You’re not greeting people, you’re disturbing the entire shop. A smile will suffice until they get to the counter.


Not everyone likes to be greeted from across a busy cafe. Wait until they approach the counter. Credit: mickyroo, Pixabay

  1. Everything in its Place

Design your space to be inviting. Make it easy to see where customers are supposed to go and don’t put things in their way, because a stress-free experience promises them a coffee they’ll enjoy.

Not sure how good your design is? Pretend you’re entering your shop for the first time. Do you feel comfortable or confused? Can you find the things you want, like bags of coffee or condiments? If it’s a struggle, check out our six steps to an awesome cafe design.

coffee shop

A coffee shop should be designed to have flow. Credit: Unsplash, Pixabay

  1. Be Confident

You know your craft. You have a reason for the way your shop does things. Embrace it. Let customers know why you are different and why that makes your shop great. And definitely don’t apologize for it. This will lead your customers to trust your recommendations, coffee quality, and brewing techniques.

Not a confident person? Fake it: dress up smart, roll those shoulders back, and put on your best smile.

man in a suit

Dress up smart if you need a confidence boost. Photo credit: Unsplash, Pixabay

SEE ALSO: 5 Ways to Stand Out From The Specialty Coffee Shop Crowd

  1. Hello, My Name Is…

The best time to get to know a customer is when you first meet them. Ask for their name (before it gets awkward to); being on first-name basis will make them feel like a regular from the very beginning. Follow this up with small talk, whether it’s about coffee, the weather, or their hobbies and family. Whatever they’re interested in, you should be interested in.

This can be difficult (especially for introverts like myself), but it’s worth it. It puts your customers at ease and tells them that you’re interested in their experiences – from which they’ll deduce that you’re interested in giving them a great coffee experience.

Being friendly and polite leaves a lasting positive impression

Make that first introduction count. Credit: SCY, Pixabay

  1. How Can I Help You?

A good first impression is all about establishing trust. One way to do that is to let your customers know that you can guide them through their coffee order. Don’t make them ask you for their drink – you need to ask them what they want. Pay attention to the clues they’re giving you; give them help if they seem uncertain.

And whatever you do, don’t be a know-it-all. More and more people are learning about third wave coffee, but if you ruin their experience, that will only tell them that they don’t belong in your cafe.

Greet customers with a smile to leave a lasting impact

Let them know your coffee will make them smile. Credit: Unsplash, Pixabay

  1. Mind the Details

There are hundreds of small little things you can do to make a great first impression, particularly when it comes to service. Try delivering drinks to tables, anticipating a glass of water, clearing dishes for customers, or directing them to a seat.

Do the unexpected to show new customers how you’re different to the other coffee shops out there. Demonstrate how you’ll take care of their needs and provide them with the coffee they really want.

The customers walking into your shop want great coffee, but more than that, they want the reassurance that they’ll receive great coffee week in, week out. They’ll decide whether to trust you to do that based on their first impressions. So follow these seven easy steps to let those customers know you’re going to take care of them.

Cafe owners and baristas, what else do you do to create a good first impression? Coffee lovers, what turns you off in a cafe? Let us know in the comments, on facebook, or on instagram.

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Feature Photo Credit: kaboompics.com

Perfect Daily Grind.