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Helping Costa Coffee find perfect blend of productivity

We know building a productive business relies on an understanding of the finer details. It’s about clocking the seconds spent; spotting the bottlenecks and counting the beans, which is just what Costa Coffee did after building a picture of productivity across their stores writes Simon Hedaux, founder and CEO of Rethink Productivity

If you’ve got 3,000 stores with 20,000 employees, how do you make sure you have the right number of people, serving the right number of customers, at the right time? It’s a question that Costa had to ask when their parent company, Whitbread, brought in a new workforce management system to deal with staff scheduling. Until then, they’d never really stopped to look at how efficient their business is – and how they could improve.

We asked founder of ReThink Productivity Simon Hedaux, who worked closely with Costa Coffee to improve their productivity, to share his insights into what Costa did, how this helped and what businesses can learn from this.

Get back to the shop floor

The first step was to listen carefully to understand Costa’s needs- an external team set up camp in fifteen stores for five days to integrate with the teams and dip below the surface of everyday store life. Here are four methods they used to access efficiency:

Time how long different tasks take.

Costa measured how long it took their staff to complete in-store tasks, from brewing a Chocolate Orange Mocha to cleaning sandwich grills. Then, average figures from this data were produced.

These Standard Minute Values (SMV’s) help companies build labour budgets so they can set sales targets, understand how many work hours they actually need, and analyse variance across their people, stores and sites.

Quantify time spent serving customers

Costa looked at how baristas split their time across different types of activity and grouped them into three categories:

  1. tasks that directly served customers – like making drinks and taking payments
  2. tasks that indirectly supported customers – like cleaning or restocking;
  3. time spent not working such as taking breaks or waiting for customers. 

They measured these three categories over the course of the trading day and across the whole week, which illustrated the pace of work in different stores, and also allowed them to compare benchmark percentages against other companies.

Spend a day in the life of a manager

The external team followed in the footsteps of four store managers and three assistant managers over a seven-hour shift, to understand the split of their work responsibilities. They noted how long they spent serving customers and how much time they dedicated to guiding colleagues.

Watch and listen

Drawing on their knowledge and experience of other retailers and industries, the external team made anecdotal observations during their time spent in the stores, taking note of opportunities for improvement around things like layout, equipment and communication. They recorded sound bites from team members, too, about what was working well and what wasn’t. It was an opportunity for them to speak freely and tell senior management what they’d like to see change.

How did it help?

It is important not only have in-depth data, but also practical steps and clear advice on quick wins and longer-term strategy.

Costa was given the information they needed to build an effective budget model. For the first time, they could accurately estimate how much to spend in stores to meet forecasted sales – and give customers a better experience. They could align their employee schedules with customer demand and were given new insights into their business and suggested actions they could take to improve performance.

Here are a few ways that helped set the wheels in motion:

  • It was found the layout of the counters was causing bottlenecks and long queues. So, Costa are trialling a new design, including a customer waiting area.
  • Food took much longer to prepare than coffee in drive-through stores, which meant customers had to park. Now they’ve introduced a new, faster panini press. Customers no longer have to wait, and baristas don’t lose time walking to the car park.
  • It was highlighted that having more than one floor has a big impact on the time it takes to complete tasks. As a next step, Costa carried out a data survey across all their UK stores. With this information, they can more equitably allocate salary funding and measure performance.
  • Communication with colleagues wasn’t always consistent, so it was difficult to keep them up to speed about new offers. Costa have now ramped up the use of mobile phones and iPads to engage their people.

Costa is now on a journey towards better efficiency, greater productivity and happier customers.

Article by Simon Hedaux, founder and CEO of Rethink Productivity, a world leading productivity partner which helps businesses to drive efficiency, boost productivity and optimise budgets. For more information see https://rethinkproductivity.co.uk/