Training your employees when you own or manage a coffee shop is a combination of first-rate communication, patience, and motivation from all parties. Customers are happy to return to your shop when they are greeted with consistency, and this is only achieved through proper training.
When training your employees, you need to clearly state your expectations as early on as possible. Designate a handful of people to be assigned trainers without compromising quality and have patience, providing constructive criticism, while also praising for a job done correctly. Interpersonal communication does take practice, but it is not optional. There are five specific steps on effectively training, and they should be studied in detail until the process becomes natural. The most important step in training your baristas, however, is to give feedback often and to regularly discuss and evaluate expectations.
Invest In Your Business
Investing in the necessary, fully-functioning equipment is imperative in training your employees efficiently. If the equipment provided is broken or in poor working shape, bad habits are going to be formed early, and it is far easier to avoid bad habits completely than to fix them later. Investing in your business will be the catalyst to effectively training your employees.
Hire Qualified And Reliable Staff
Take your interview process very seriously when hiring your staff. Unfortunately, not everybody can be hired, especially in the service industry. Working in food service is no easy task. You must be able to count on your staff to show up to work promptly, in a positive mood, and ready to jump into work. Call references and use good judgement. Don’t be afraid to kindly decline offering a job.
Need some tips for hiring the best baristas? Check out this article.
Lead By Example
You can hire the most qualified workers for the job, have state of the art technology, and still lose workplace morale if your employees are working hard and you are not. Lead by the example you want to see. Show up to work on time, dressed presentably, and in a good mood. Your employees will notice if you spend all day on your personal phone, and they will not want to work hard for you
Communication Skills Are NOT Optional.
As the shop owner, the first thing you need to do is devise and communicate a clear, concise business plan. As early on as possible, expectations must be set and you MUST ensure the employees understand. Open the door and encourage any questions they may have. Bad habits won’t begin if training is done correctly from day one.
“Peanut Butter and Jelly” Method of Communication
If you ask ten people to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you are going to get ten different peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Keep this in mind when communicating to your employees during training. “I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with creamy peanut butter and grape jelly” is far clearer than “I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
Do Your Research
There are many ways of training your employees, and there’s no need to shy away from using several methods. Depending on your business, there may be professionally-designed courses at your disposal, external training courses, or someone trained specifically to come to your coffee shop and train. Find out what information is available to you and design your training plans from these resources.
Delegate Tasks Based On Skill Sets
Maybe Employee “A” excels in making drinks, where Employee “B” struggles. There is no shame in delegating Employee “A” to train in beverage preparation. Employee “B” may have exceptional customer service skills where Employee “C” lacks. Same procedure, Employee “B” could be the designated “Customer Service Skills Trainer.” Delegate tasks to ease your burden.
Once the intricacies are settled, you can start developing your baristas’ skills. Explain the importance and objective of doing their job correctly each and every time. Customers demand consistency from a business. Have the procedure they are going to be trained in explained thoroughly by the designated trainer.
Step by step details of how every task is done correctly in a hands-on manner is where your employee will see exactly how the task is done. If the task wasn’t necessarily explained well, this is where the employee will get a better grasp of what they need to do to complete their job correctly.
Once you’ve explained in detail what needs to be done and demonstrated exactly how the task is done, give the barista a chance to show you how it is done. This will ensure they can properly use the equipment necessary to perform their task and also opens up the door for feedback.. Show them again if necessary, and repeat your observation.
Express Confidence In Their Success
Part of your job in a managerial position is to be the accelerator in your baristas’ motivation. Your main focus should be on progress rather than perfection. Care for your staff, giving positive recognition when it is deserved, and express to them their competency. If you must criticize, do so in a compliment-criticism-compliment manner of private discussion. Praise in public, scold in private.
Follow Up On A Regular Basis
Having discussions on a regular basis, whether weekly or monthly, etc, will keep everybody on the same page as far as expectations are concerned. If you need to have a discussion on below standard work, have it as early on as possible. Don’t confuse a bad day with a bad employee, but if you consistently see poor behavior, privately discuss it before disciplinary action must be taken.
Cross-Train Your Baristas
Your baristas should be able to do any job that needs to be done in your shop. If you have an employee that needs to take a leave of absence, quits, calls off, etc, you have to have someone to jump into another role as needed. Take the time to touch base with your baristas and cross-train them as needed. Encourage them to be flexible and take on new tasks.
Retrain As Necessary
If equipment breaks or is too old to function and needs to be replaced, you may have to retrain your baristas on the new equipment. Perhaps maybe they try to take shortcuts on perfectly functional equipment. Take a few minutes and retrain them on how to do their job properly. Hopefully bad habits won’t form, but time is of the essence when you have customers waiting.
Have Your Employees Evaluate Themselves
On a scale of one to ten, have each of your employees rate themselves on the different aspects of their jobs. Initiate the discussion with them as to why they chose the ranking they did for each task. Generally, they will either rank themselves too low or too high, not usually on par with how they are truly doing. This is where you rate them yourself, coach them, and align their thoughts with reality.
If you have motivated employees, and by all means you should, pick one or two areas and transfer the “ownership” of that part of the business to them. Remember, you want to encourage progress, not perfection. If they are evaluated at, say, a six, what will it take for them to bring that six up to maybe an eight? Let them lead this discussion and give your input as to what you would like to see from them. Again, have follow up discussions regularly.
Train Your Employees To Promote
If you have a handful of baristas that are particularly motivated and excel in many skill sets, train them to “take your job.” If for some reason need to take time off of work, it will calm your mind knowing there are a few people you can have confidence in to run the shop for you. This is also a great way to prepare them to further their careers if you work for a coffee shop chain or franchise.
A great staff will be unteachable if they are unhappy. Make fair, consistent, flexible schedules. This ensures a better work-life balance. Also ensure you are giving constructive feedback and make their progress and accomplishments known. Support their ideas for potential improvements. At the end of the day, make sure your employees have trust in you.
I Have An Employee That Just Cannot Do A Specific Skill. How Can I Help Them?
This is the perfect example of why outside resources can and should be used. Is there another shop owner you can call to demonstrate? Maybe they need to read over a how-to guide to really grasp what they are doing. Whatever you do, at the end of the day do not give up on them. If there is one task out of an entire shop of things that needs to be done, simply be patient and work around it.
At the end of the day, if you communicate well, consistently give positive feedback along with constructive criticism, and use all the resources you have to your advantage, your coffee shop will have happy employees. Happy employees want to do their jobs well. Customers want consistency and to keep customers returning, proper training is non-negotiable.
Looking to start your own coffee shop? Check out our course and startup documents here.
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun
My adventure in coffee began when I first launched my first coffee shop back in the early 2000s. I had to figure out so many things on my own and to make it worse within 2 years of opening two large corporate coffee chains moved in just blocks away from me!
As I saw smaller and even some larger coffee shops in the neighborhood slowly lose customers to these giant coffee chains and slowly close up shop, I knew that I had to start getting creative…or go out of business.
I (like you may be) knew the coffee industry well. I could make the best latte art around and the foam on my caps was the fluffiest you have ever seen. I even had the best state-of-the-art 2 group digital Nuova Simonelli machine money could buy. But I knew that these things alone would not be enough to lure customers away from the name brand established coffee shops.
Eventually, through lots of trial and error as well as perseverance and creativity I did find a way to not only survive but also thrive in the coffee/espresso industry even while those corporate coffee chains stayed put. During those years I learned to adapt and always faced new challenges. It was not always easy, however, in the end, I was the sole survivor independent coffee shop within a 10-mile radius of my location. Just two corporate coffee chains and I were left after that year. All told the corporate coffee chains took down over 15 small independent coffee shops and kiosks and I was the last one standing and thriving.
Along the years I meet others with the same passion for coffee and I quickly learned that it is not only “how good a barista is” that makes a coffee shop successful, but the business side of coffee as well.
Hence why I started this website you are on now. To provide the tools and resources for up and coming coffee shop owners to gain that vital insight and knowledge on how to start a coffee shop successfully.
Stick around, browse through my helpful blog and resources and enjoy your stay! With lots of LATTE LOVE!