This past week in our Play Maker Society group coaching program (which is an optional way for Play Cafe Academy members to really uplevel their game and accelerate their success with the program) we had a veteran (10 year!) Starbucks manager answer questions and WOW, she provided some amazing insight!

While the full 1-hour training (plus MY 1-hour training on my lessons in operating a profitable cafe) is only available for Play Maker Society members, I did want to share a few of her insights here with you today!

The biggest lesson I always seem to take away from EVERY monthly guest expert we have is that it is ESSENTIAL to learn from industry experts who have gone before you. 

The investment that Play Cafe Academy and Play Maker Society members have made will not only give them the confidence to move forward chasing their dream with absolute clarity and confidence-- but they will also be YEARS ahead of their competition in terms of industry specific knowledge and preparedness. 

So without further adieu, here are 3 of Katie’s best tips from her guest expert training! 

And P.S., not only is Katie a veteran (previous) Starbucks manager-- she is also in the process of opening her own indoor playground! So she is EXTRA qualified to speak on this topic and again had SO many great nuggets to share.


When determining how you will set up your cafe counter, make sure you’re setting up your fixtures and equipment to parallel the natural movements the barista will need to make. For example, most people tend to work left to right, so having supplies in order of their usual use will help boost time and efficiency.

In our own cafe, the drink making process starts with the milk and steaming pitches and ends with adding flavor-- so that is exactly how our equipment and supplies are organized.

Katie had some great tips about maximizing a small space and choosing the right equipment for your needs but she especially emphasized this efficiency aspect.

For example-- do NOT attempt to save money with a non-commercial grade espresso machine. Not only is it NOT allowed by many health codes, but it will cost you dearly in terms of the time it will take you to make each drink AND the maximum number of drinks you can make each day.

Some of the most expensive home-use espresso machines (even the ones costing OVER $1,000) can only make a drink every 20-or-so minutes and max out at about 10 drinks per day, because of the machines capabilities, heat-up times, and milk steaming times.

Also, if you are thinking of an AUTOMATIC machine to save time-- you might want to skip this investment as well. Not only are these machines MUCH more expensive than their semi-automatic counterparts, but they significantly degrade the taste and therefore the customer experience of enjoying a specialty beverage.

Want ALL of Katie’s tips on choosing espresso machines, blenders, espresso grinders, ice machines, and more? Join Play Cafe Academy and upgrade to include Play Maker Society NOW for instant access to this guest expert training and ALL previous trainings!


Speaking of the customers’ experience, Katie spoke a lot about understanding your location and your general demographic, and we were surprised to learn that Katie’s demographic and mine were quite different!

For example, Katie’s Arizona customers seem to have a much more refined palate in terms of an espresso’s quality, while mine tend to be less picky.

Katie has similarly noticed that many of her customers prefer plain espresso drinks without any flavor or bells-and-whistles while we RARELY get a drink order without any flavor!

Katie also mentioned that oat milk is one of her most-used milk alternatives, especially for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, while we have actually NEVER (to my knowledge!) had a customer request oat milk as a dairy alternative!

Katie recommends visiting other local coffee shops or cafe in your area and asking them about their customers’ preferences. And if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, just check out their menu and what they offer! Chances are, they’ve tweaked their menu over the years to meet their customers’ preference and you can learn a LOT from doing this analysis.

You can also try surveying your customers via email or social media to gain some insight into what sort of drinks (espresso based, coffee based, frozen, iced, fruit based, etc) your customers might expect from your facility.

And here’s the great news-- as the owner, YOU have the power to make changes!

Even if you buy a piece of equipment (like a commercial blender) and it turns out you do NOT need it-- that’s OK! You can easily sell it and adjust your menu to meet the needs of your target audience. 

Need help determining your target market or ideal customer? I have ALL that info for you right here!


One thing Katie plans to incorporate into her indoor playground’s cafe that she retained from her Starbucks days is about creating an incredible CULTURE.

Not only does Katie plan to train her employees such that a customers’ order will be consistent every single time regardless of the team member who prepares it, she plans on “surprising and delighting” them by adding fun special drinks and seasonal flavors to her menu often.

And it’s not JUST about creating a great relationship with your customers.

When your staff is feeling empowered and important-- they’ll have more fun and give your customers a better experience that will keep them coming back again and again.

But what’s great about a small business (unlike a large chain) is the flexibility! There are no corporate guidelines to adhere to and therefore you can mix it up more often and have fun experimenting!

For example, try allowing your team members to create their favorite drink and let them rotate offering that drink as the special “drink of the day”. Not only will your customers feel connected with your team members, but your team will feel like a valuable part of your business as well!

If you’d like to unlock HOURS of training on operating a profitable cafe as part of an indoor play space, just CLICK HERE and choose the upgrade to include Play Maker Society Access!



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Can I Send You My NEW Free 2023 "What's Working In The Indoor Play Industry" Guide?

I asked 7 Play Cafe Academy and Play Maker Society members what is working RIGHT NOW in their businesses to attract customers and grow sales. I want to send you their answers in my FREE newly updated 2023 "What's Working" Guide!