How a mobile time clock (and other software tools) can improve your coffee shop

Cute neighborhood coffee shops and cafes have become a cornerstone for communities. It’s where friends get together, people work, students study late at night, and parents get their much-needed caffeine fix in the morning. We don’t want to overstate, but they’ve literally become a lifeline for people.

If coffee shops are this important to communities, then they need to run like a well-oiled machine. People are relying on them. But how do you manage your coffee shop if you can’t be there all hours of the day? Well, with a mobile time clock and some other well-chosen software tools to make your life easier––and your coffee shop more profitable.

In this article, we’ll chat about mobile employee time clocks and how they can save a coffee shop’s bottom line, why team communication is integral, and how to make payroll and scheduling a breeze. Make yourself a fancy espresso drink and pull up a cozy chair while you take a read.

What is a mobile time clock?

A mobile time clock is a time clock on a smart device––like a cellphone––that makes it easy for employees to clock in and out for their shifts. A mobile time clock records punches for shifts and breaks, then stores them digitally for employers to use to create timesheets and complete payroll.

Employee time clocks have been around forever, but mobile time clocks are becoming the norm now that everyone carries a smartphone with them. What does this have to do with running a coffee shop? Let’s take a look.

How to run a successful coffee shop

There’s no better place than a local coffee shop that makes you feel at home. They can be a safe haven and source of comfort for so many people. But that doesn’t mean that anyone and everyone can just throw up a coffee shop and watch the profits roll in.

Sales data collected by Gitnux states, “Over the last 5 years, there has been a 2.4% growth in the number of coffee shops in the United States, with 65,410 coffee shops and 17,537 projected for 2025.” This may seem like proof of concept, but it’s also proof of a really competitive market.

So, how do you stand out?

Hire an incredible team and do what you can to keep them

Yes, a killer espresso beverage is going to draw people in, but having a team of coffee shop employees who truly care for your customers is going to keep people coming back. In fact, 99% of small coffee shop closures have nothing to do with the quality of their coffee. Get yourself a team of baristas who love customer service, who remember people’s orders, and who recognize the local coffee shop as the community space it is.

The second piece of the employee puzzle is to retain those amazing baristas. How do you do that? With a good employee retention strategy.

  • Offer flexibility in their schedules so your employees can have a good work/life balance
  • Keep a tip jar on the counter so your customers can show your team how much they value them
  • Show them appreciation and incentivize longevity with opportunities to move up
  • Provide a good wage with employee benefits

Show your regulars that you appreciate them

A coffee shop is made or broken on its regulars. You want to become a ‘third place’ for your customers: somewhere that’s not home and also not work. A third place that makes them feel valued. Think about offering a loyalty card, special discounts, and whatever you do, make sure you’ve got free WiFi. Remember the names of your regulars, and ask for feedback regularly. Perhaps most importantly, cultivate an atmosphere that encourages people to get cozy and stay a while.

Having a space that’s warm and welcoming with comfy couches and chairs, or bookshelves filled with free books and magazines will let your regulars know that you want them to settle in. After all, you want your coffee shop to be a home away from home. You want people to come again and again—and bring their friends.

Serve up a delicious menu

Even though the quality of your coffee isn’t the #1 reason people return to your cafe again and again, it is #2. 

Here are some tips on creating a menu that will have people coming back for more:

  • A menu that balances classic beverages with some fun twists exclusive to your shop is your best chance at success.
  • Train your staff to pour the perfect coffee. There’s an art to making an espresso-based beverage and practice often makes perfect. Have regular tastings for your team of baristas.
  • Be choosy when selecting which beans you’re going to grind. Not all beans are created equal and many people value supporting local roasters.
  • If you don’t bake items in-house, find a local bakery to partner with to offer delicious snacks alongside coffee.

Automate your processes as much as possible

There are so many details to keep track of. Scheduling, ordering, menu items, cleaning protocols, and payroll––the list goes on and on. The more you can automate these processes and turn them into an easy system, the better your chance at success.

Balls are bound to be dropped if you don’t automate. Maybe you forget that you ran out of medium-sized cups early, or you didn’t schedule extra baristas during the morning rush. That’s ok: it happens. But when it does, it impacts your customer’s experience. 

If you implement software tools––like a mobile time clock––you can start to reduce those margins of human error. But more importantly, just make your life easier.

What are the benefits of a mobile employee time clock for a coffee shop?

Time clock apps can help prevent time theft

When you run a coffee shop, you can’t be there every hour of every day monitoring your employees. Even if you are there on a regular basis, it’s impossible (and bad form) to be constantly monitoring your employees to ensure they’re not standing around doing nothing. Lack of productivity is a form of time theft, meaning you’re paying your team for time they’re not actually working. 

Another form of time theft is people clocking in a few minutes early and clocking out a few minutes late: something tough to keep track of if you’re using manual time tracking methods. Luckily,  a mobile time clock app can do that work for you. Many mobile time clock apps offer GPS capabilities or geofencing. 

Geofencing means you can put up a digital perimeter around your location so your employees can’t clock in unless they’re in that perimeter. They also can’t clock out when they’re outside of that perimeter.

This offers a couple of benefits for a coffee shop:

  • No buddy punching: employees can’t get their friends to clock in for them if they slept past their alarm and are running late.
  • Forgotten clock outs are a thing of the past: if an employee forgets to clock out and they leave the perimeter, they’ll get a notification reminding them to clock out
  • Location identification: if you own several locations and staff work between them, you can separate who worked when at what location.

It makes time tracking easy on your employees

Time tracking can be one of those big headaches when running a coffee shop. It’s human nature. Your team can forget to clock in or clock out, or worse, feel apathetic towards it.

The solution? Make it easy on them to track their time with a mobile time clock. With GenZ as the up and coming majority workforce, phones are a lifeline to the world. If they already have that smartphone in hand and get a text message or app notification when they walk through the door, you’re taking the human error out of time tracking––at least as best you can.

An added bonus? Your team’s more in control of submitting their own hours. They trust their own app data over a manager having to enter data manually from handwritten timesheets. 

Make time tracking as easy as opening up TikTok by using a mobile time clock.

Time clock apps can keep you up to date on what’s going on without having to be on location

Just because you run a business doesn’t mean you can’t have work/life balance. But it can be hard to shut off your brain. Having the right time clock app can help you relax––at least a little bit.

A good time clock app can send you notifications for important information. Things like:

These are things you definitely need to keep an eye on, but a good mobile time clock will keep an eye out for you.

A mobile time clock for coffee shops can help you stay compliant

The Fair Labor Standards Act states that employers have to keep impeccable records. It’s quite literally the law. A mobile time clock app stores all of the data from clock ins and clock outs, PTO, overtime, and employee information.

Having this data protects the employees from being unfairly paid, and it protects the employer from being accused of stealing wages. Everybody wins when recordkeeping is easy and accessible.

Having all of this data in one digital place? Invaluable. No more filing cabinets stuffed with papers with faded ink, no more ‘hope for the best’ Google or Excel spreadsheets with broken formulas that you pray you actually notice.

Mobile time clocks reduce admin hours for your managers 

If you’ve got someone managing or supervising your coffee shop, we can bet they wear many hats. Ordering supplies, helping staff, scheduling employees, and putting out fires––hopefully not literally. The best thing you can do for them is to make those admin tasks easy peasy. 

A mobile employee time clock eliminates the need to file paper time sheets, figure out if that number’s a six or an eight, enter the numbers by hand for payroll, and for the most part, stop chasing people down to enter their clock ins and clock outs. At the end of their day, they just need to take a quick peek at those clock punches to make sure everything looks right.

Not only does this free up time for management to help in other areas––like making lattes during those rushed mornings––but it keeps your bottom line low.

It turns hours into paychecks

Sticking with the theme of admin tasks, the right mobile time clock will connect several steps in your admin task process.

Payroll is a necessary part of owning any small business. The most time consuming part of payroll? Collecting all of those time sheets with hours worked and turning them into paychecks.

A mobile app can collect clock in and out times for your employees, turn those hours into timesheets. Then, those timesheets get transformed into payroll––all with the touch of a couple of buttons.

If you’ve got an integrated mobile time clock app, it can prevent mistakes, reduce the time your team spends on payroll, and track complicated details like overtime and PTO

Mobile time clock apps can keep your budget on track

Coffee shops can have small margins. The average cost to launch a coffee shop is between $150,000 and $400,000. We know that you’re going to want to run a slim margin for the first couple of years in particular. Mobile time clock apps can help you do that.

Most of these apps are going to have a free or inexpensive version. Homebase offers a basic plan that allows for simple scheduling and time tracking totally free for up to 20 employees. If you need something a little more robust, the Essentials plan that offers GPS, image captures, and four years of timesheet storage is only $24.95/month.

That price point’s going to be way less expensive than the hours your team spends on organizing all of the manual timesheets.

Mobile time clocks have made it affordable for small businesses to easily do this side of business.

Other tools to help you manage your coffee shop

Let’s look at other software pieces of the puzzle that help you better manage and grow your coffee shop or cafe.


We mentioned this above, but if you really want to step up your growth game, having a suite of tools that all connect––think time clock punches to timesheets to payroll––will be your best bet.

The fewer steps you need to take, the less room for error. A mobile time clock’s your first step to everything being digitized and connected.


If you run a lovely little neighborhood coffee shop with 4-5 employees, it can seem excessive to have scheduling software. But we promise that when something (inevitably) goes off the rails, that’s when the software comes into play.

Let’s say employee #1 has a vacation scheduled for two weeks in the summer, employee #2’s school schedule changes in the summer, and employee #3 has worked an excess of 40 hours and is deep into overtime. Trying to map this all out on paper can start to look like one of those extra hard Sudoku puzzles. This is when scheduling software is your best friend.

If the day ever comes when you want to expand to new neighborhoods or a bigger location, you’re set up for success out of the gate.

Next to a mobile time clock, scheduling software is a no brainer.

Team communication

Whether you have a small team, a big team, or several locations that your team rotates between, you’re going to need an easy way to keep everyone in touch.

A team communication tool can do exactly that. Having a communal space where everyone can connect has huge advantages for a coffee shop:

  • No need to share phone numbers when you have a messaging tool for your team
  • Easily introduce and add any new employees to communication chains
  • Shift swaps and covers are no problem when your team can post their shift up for grabs
  • Send anything from announcements, shoutouts, and documents that need to be reviewed
  • As an added bonus, teammates can message their early morning coffee orders to those opening shift teams.

Finding the right tools to grow your coffee shop can feel like an overwhelming task, but we promise Homebase is here to help businesses just like yours.

Spend less time on team management and more time growing your coffee shop.

Homebase offers a time clock app and a suite of tools that will help you manage your team and grow your coffee shop. Get started with our mobile time clock tool today!

Mobile time clock FAQS

What is a mobile time clock?

A mobile time clock is a time clock that not only records clock in and out times for your employees, but is available on smart devices. Employees can clock into work from their phones. 

From a business owner’s perspective, a mobile time clock can integrate a bunch of your admin tools like timesheets and payroll, making your life much easier.

Is now a good time to open a coffee shop?

Coffee sales are at an all-time high over the past 5 years with all signs indicating that they’re going to continue to trend upwards. People need a place to go to to get out of their houses––after several years of being stuck inside. But that doesn’t mean you should rush out to sign a lease.

Because coffee’s a hot commodity––pardon the pun––many people want to open a coffee shop. So, if you want to open your own shop, you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to differentiate yourself. You can do this with a team of incredible people, make your regulars feel special, offer a unique and delicious menu, and automate your admin tasks and processes so no balls get dropped.

You also need to be ahead of the game with mobile ordering, which is on the rise.

Why does my coffee shop need a mobile time clock?

Coffee shops need a mobile time clock because, with early morning hours and long shifts, you can’t be at your location every hour it’s open. A mobile time clock makes it easier for you to manage your team’s clock ins and outs and for your team to manage themselves.

The added benefit is that you can connect it to other tools to make your admin tasks less stressful and more seamless.

Do I really need software tools if I run a small coffee shop?

Every single business could benefit from having a digital process. Big or small. Especially if your team’s primarily made up of GenZ-ers who are known as the digital generation. Making the task of tracking their time with a mobile time clock more user-friendly for them means less errors for you.

If you ever plan on expanding locations, having these digital systems set up ahead of time will make your growth easier.

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