How to Get Better Service at a Coffee Shop

It's no secret: sometimes a simple stop for coffee can be more frustrating than relaxing. Here are a few suggestions to help ensure that getting your caffeine fix doesn't leave you wishing for a sedative.


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    Smile. By being polite and friendly you can virtually guarantee that your transaction will go smoothly. People respond to kindness, and if you say "please" and "thank you" it will go a long way.
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    Wait for the staff member to address you first. Even if they don't appear to be occupied with anything important, they may be busy helping another customer (especially if the cafe has a drive-thru)or with catering or checking that everything is ready to serve you (e.g., coffee is fresh, everything is stocked sufficiently). If you are patient, it will be recognized and appreciated. However, if staff is overtly ignoring you or has not noticed you, a polite "excuse me" is appropriate.
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    Be specific about your needs when you order. If you want to take a moment to look at the menu, say so. If you are wondering what a certain drink is, ask. If you are stumped as to what to get, ask for a recommendation. If you are clear about what you want it will be easier for the person serving you to help you, and you will be more satisfied with the end result.
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    Avoid changing your order numerous times. Changing your mind is your prerogative, and it is perfectly fine if you forgot to specify skim milk, or decided at the last minute to get something to eat or to pick up something for a friend. Just try to stay within reason and make minor adjustments, for the sake of your server as well as the other customers.
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    If there is a problem with your order, do not hesitate to mention it, but be careful to be polite. Do not interrupt your server just to complain; wait until they are finished with the next customer or speak with someone who is free. Do not whine ("this always happens when I come here") and do not make accusations ("you made me the wrong drink"). Simply state what the problem is, and you will likely be given a replacement or be reimbursed with no fuss.
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    When you leave, it's not necessary to bus your own table, but it is a nice gesture that will not go unnoticed. Just be sure to respond if a staff member says "good-bye" or "have a nice day". If you leave a good impression, it will probably carry over to your next visit.
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    The following steps are specifically for Drive-thru coffee shops:
    • Roll down your window as you approach the menu board. Drive-thru staff are trained to greet you as soon as your vehicle is detected by a sensor, and if your window is rolled up you might not hear them. This can be confusing, especially if they request that you give them a moment before you place your order.
    • Turn off the radio, pause the conversation,make the dog stop barking and,if necessary,(particularly for trucks and SUVs) turn off the engine in order to be understood more easily. The driver should be the one to place the order, being closest to the microphone.
    • If you need time to look over the menu board, do not simply ignore the server's greeting. Tell him/her that you need a moment to decide. Then decide as quickly as possible so that other customers are not kept waiting.
    • Keep in mind that drive-thru service was created to be fast and convenient. This means that large orders, ground coffee/coffee beans and merchandise purchases should not be made in drive-thru. You will be served faster in these cases if you walk into the cafe.
    • Pay with cash, or with gift cards. Credit cards and debit take longer and do not always work consistently. If possible, pay with exact change.
    • Do not add to your order once you get to the window, especially if there are several cars behind you.


  • Do not cut in line.
  • Be aware of the store's hours. Avoid coming in during the last half hour that the store is open, as staff will be busy getting the cafe closed and will be less than thrilled to serve you. If you do come in, take your order to go. Do not try to buy anything after closing, and don't linger in the store longer than necessary. Don't stay until you get kicked out because most staff members will resent having to do that, especially if they are shy.
  • If you are legitimately disappointed with the service, tell the owner/manager. They need to know if there is a problem in order to make adjustments.
  • Drive-thru tips:
    • Put down your cell phone. It's rude.
    • Above all, don't forget to smile!
  • Don't try any scams. If you think that you can get a freebie by complaining about something asinine, or ask to have a beverage replaced after you've consumed most of it, you are severely deluded into thinking you're fooling anyone. Just don't do it, period.
  • For brownie points, loudly ask your server what time they close (when it is close to closing and there are still people in the cafe). Hopefully other customers will overhear and clear out.
  • For exceptionally large orders, consider phoning ahead to warn the staff. It may seem silly, but most servers will appreciate the heads-up. If you can be specific about when you are coming, they may even be able to make your order ready to pick-up when you come.
  • Unless you are eating something that is pre-wrapped, never get your food for yourself. Those plastic domes and containers are there for a reason; and though your hands may very well be clean, it is a health consideration. Keep your hands to yourself and let the people with the tongs get it for you.
  • Avoid pointing or tapping on display cases when indicating what you are ordering. It comes across as impatient and rude and the tapping can make a person feel like a goldfish.
  • Organize, if you are placing a large order. Start with the drinks: organize them by how difficult they are to make(espresso/milk based drinks like lattes, then coffee/teas, then cold drinks, if they are bottled/fountain drinks) and order food after. This will help your servers help you faster, and they will also be less likely to make mistakes. For especially large orders, it is often easiest to have a written copy, clearly and consistently formatted (like size,then drink, modification...e.g. small mochachino, skim extra-hot and no-whip) that you can simply hand to your server.

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Categories: Dining Out