More and more specialty coffee places are opening their doors around the world, having different business models.
One thing is true.
Slowly but surely it is becoming clear that to sell specialty coffee successfully you need to have workers who are not only passionate about the product, but also qualified and have some education in the area. Otherwise the place can end up with the reputation of the wanna-be, because it is enough to have one really quality specialty in the area for the customer to be tasting the difference. And customer is becoming more and more educated about the product.
So… Being a qualified barista requires: doing a barista course (at least barista course!), and/or having some valid experience in the area of specialty, and having general knowledge about specialty coffee. It is in the case if you want somebody who can make quality drinks and establish connection with the customer who knows sometimes more about specialty than you are expecting.
A barista course costs, lets say, 600 euros. Valid experience is 1,5-2 years of working with specialty. Passion and constant self-education – priceless.
SO. Basically a professional barista is a person you paid money for his education (and in the best case scenario is still paying, taking courses), who has worked with coffee for some time, and who is motivated and constantly learning.
It is a profession. Doesn’t matter if you want it, or not – barista is a profession.
How a professional can be motivated? In all the cases, more responsibilities, more challenges – and more money respectfully. New coffees to work with – interesting environment, suitable for growing the skills. Peaceful and welcoming environment at work. Free education – paying a course or two, as a way of showing that you appreciate the person and his growth will benefit everybody. Ticket to the Barista Camp, any coffee expo, barista championship. Yes, important. Supporting the competition – good for barista, good for the image of your brand he is representing.
Those are the basics.
I think this is extremely important, and, as I previously said, those are the basics of the motivation of the coffee professionals. Letting a person know that he is doing his job well, that he is a valuable asset of the company, feeling the moods, thinking about other peoples goals – a skill that makes a great manager.
The problem sometimes is that, and it happens on the markets where specialty just appeared, so they want to grow, but still are not ready to pay for the quality – there is a conflict. A person with experience, education and passion is looked for – but there is not so much demand yet, and the minumum salaries are also low. So this is the way when baristas who paid money for their education end up being also cashiers, sellers of freshly baked bread, cooks, cleaners, etc.
This is just a situation, normal and pretty often, that with the growth of the industry is changing, as we can see from the previous experience, let’s say in States, Australia or Norway.
My question is… How much quality can you expect from the barista who is juggling 3-non-coffee-related tasks at the same time (and I am not mentioning coffee tasks)? And, what is even more important – for how long? Who is attracted by these positions?
I worked like that before, it was my first job as a barista. A well known coffee chain, french bakery, that was expanding so fast they were constantly hiring (and constantly losing) people. As a barista you were expected to make the drinks for all the tables, all the drinks including cocktails and freshly squizeed juices, + you registered and made all the take-aways, and also were selling and slicing bread. One person to work for 3. You were not expected to collect and load the dishes in the dishwasher, no, but if you were in the day shift (starting at 15, finishing at 24), you were expected to fullfill the total invetary of the whole shop. I cannot tell you how many times I had to take a taxi home, because the metro was already closed when I had been finishing the shift.
The guys wanted to work with specialty. So they bought the grinders, bought the machines, hired more people…. And were losing everybody, again and again. Hiring new ones, losing, hiring, losing…. It became a working model, actually, because for 1 person who quit they had 5-6 of those who needed the job and wanted the position.
It became a strategy of the company, which from the business point of view makes total sense. You reduce the costs, you don’t invest in your workers, you put them under pressure, and when they are done – you find new ones. It worked with everybody, not only with the baristas – with managers, waiters, cooks.
I lasted 3 months. After this time I got so exhausted and demotivated that I left with no remorse. And I was by far not the first one.
Answering the question about quality…
From my point of view, if there is no strict system of the control of specialty coffee built from the outside by somebody who understands and has a vision, should it be an owner himself, or a hired specialist in coffee – a system that is clear and respected by everybody who touches the coffee equipment, everything starts to depend on a will, mood, capabilities and knowledge of each particular worker. And if the amount of tasks is huge, the politics about the quality are unclear, the remuneration is low – the quality is gonna suffer first. And then the image is formed, and image is hard to change, because you have to work with what others think about you.
By no means I have answers about how things should be done, or ready recipes of how to work and live, and make business. The only thing that I know for sure is that business is people. People who work for it, and people who it serves.
I know one beach bar, close to the place where I live – and I can swear, I can feel that people love working there. And when people love working there, it kinda creates the athmosphere, and attracts clients. Because we love to be coming to the places where we feel good, and where we know that others are feeling good also. And I love to see that people are feeling good, and proud of their workplace. Believe it or not, it makes the difference, and this is the only bar that is full even in the low season. And beach bars are hella hard to manage, by the way.