What owners and manager wish baristas knew

I Started a thread on Barista Exchange that I feel will be hugely beneficial for baristas. Especially new baristas. I should note that I in no way think of myself as having achieved perfection in these things but I have, for ten years as a barista, learned some good lessons about them. And so as one who is still learning I hope you find this helpful.

With the exponential increase in baristas knowledge of crafting coffee the temptation may be to focus so much on the coffee that the shop crumbles around you. We are service providers. As professionals we must strive to achieve excellence in all the relevant facets of the coffee shop where in we practice our craft. A craft that is more than just the coffee but a craft of service and atmosphere.

Baristas need to earn the value they believe they deserve. We are blessed with great organizations like the BGA going to bat for the craft of the barista, yet it must be stated that the value that you desire to be associated with your job is something that must be earned daily by you. No organization can give it to you only your boss can. And no self respecting or barista respecting boss for that matter will just hand it to you because you can pour a tulip or because you win a competition. It is earned when mopping, when cashing out, when rotating stock. It is earned by exceeding your bosses expectations, by keeping a clean condiment station, by sweeping the walk and being nice to jerks.

If the barista craft is ever to be taken seriously we must start becoming more than just people who make coffee but people who create and maintain an excellent quality experience. This discussion is meant to direct the baristas attention to the street level reality of what it takes to make progress as and to attach value to the profession of  “Barista”.


Below is what I posted:

If you could….List off the top three things that you wish baristas would get a grip on.

Often times the day to day of the bar is hurried and thoughts of “I really need to tell them_____” quickly forgotten when a order gets delivered, a fire needs to be put out etc.

Quite frankly, many managers and owners hold their tongue much more than they ought to and this leads to a tense work environment, un met expectations, and a drought of communication.

I have been on bar for about ten years now in many different bars. Now that I am a manager and trainer I try to communicate to my baristas the things I wish my managers had communicated to me and pass along the good stuff that they DID communicate to me.

If you are serious about your job as a barista then you need to heed the advice of those who post here as it will most likely determine whether or not you get a raise or not…or whether you are viewed as a valuable asset at all.

I will start:

1. Don’t argue with me. Just follow instructions and bring up concerns later.

I love feed back and discussions but their is a fine line between honest questions and suggestions and just being contrary. Even if your Boss is wrong, they are still your boss and your arguing a “right” point does not make you an asset to your boss it makes you a liability. Best thing to do is to ask honest questions, gain understanding, and follow the directive. If you have a better way then ask for a moment to chat and bring it up as a way to enhance what your manager has already worked hard to put in place. If you come at it like you want to tear down and re-build…then good luck.

2. Be self directed and innovative.

If I have to tell you to clean, or stock, or wash etc…fine you are a new hire and you are simply learning the ropes…but if that continues… even if you follow instructions to a “T” you will not be viewed as an asset to the company but as one who needs to be baby sat constantly. You may have a check list on your computer or hanging in the mop closet. But if you don’t work beyond that, if you only do what is explicitly asked of you…you are not going anywhere with me. The type of person your manager is looking for is the person who automatically does what is on the check list without really ever needing the list. This is a behavior that CAN be learned but is difficult to instill in a workforce that expects too much too soon. You must earn you place.

3. It is not just about the coffee

Ok. I remember working at Gimme! Coffee years ago. And in my review time I always did well in my drinks and efficiency behind the bar etc. In fact I became a trainer at gimme later on…but I consistently had bad marks when it came to the up keep of the greater coffee bar, ie: condiment station, stocking, cleaning tables etc. This was frustrating for me because I was, and still am, even more so, passionate about the quality. But it was to a fault. I had blinders on to the world around me. I hid behind the machine.I strove to improve this and gradually learned that it is more than just the coffee people come for, it is the service, and atmosphere too. I needed to channel my energies to those things if I ever hoped to be a professional in any sense of the word.

Because I went through it myself, now I can see it in baristas and call it early before it becomes ingrained. The specialty coffee world does not need any one trick ponies we need efficient and flexible work horses.

So then, you, though you are passionate about pour-over, and latte art, and awesome espresso. You need to realize that you may have blinders on to the other areas that need your attention. The sooner you realize this, own it, and correct it, the sooner your boss will take notice of you. You will be seen as a MVP because you embrace the total package and don’t just retreat to the espresso machine.

So then, managers and owners…what would you add to these?

What do you want Baristas to know that will make them valuable to you and to the greater industry?

Post your top three HERE


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