Now that you have your coffee shop planned out, you will want to staff it right. You may be concerned about hiring the wrong person. Your staffing is one of the most important choices you will make when opening or expanding your shop. You have many potential hires, so how would you know you’re making the right choice?
To hire a good barista, compile a list of the traits you want. After determining what qualities you find important figure out where to place the ad in-store, online on a job board, or in-person locally. Once you have candidates you need to determine if they meet the personality of your shop. Come up with interview questions to help see if they will fit in with the other staff and decide if you want one or two interviews. During the interview, you want to test their knowledge on various things like drinks, handling money, or any other important aspects of your barista position.
WHERE YOU SHOULD ADVERTISE YOUR OPENING
Before you put an ad out, make a list of all the qualities you want them to possess. If you want them to be a fast learner and easily trainable, make sure to list that. Do you want someone familiar with your coffee shop already? If you do, place signs out around your shop and mention them on social media. Look at the different job sites and see which seems to be the best matches.
Another thing to decide before you put an ad out and start the hiring process is where you want to advertise. Some people decide to keep to people who are familiar with their particular coffee shop. If that is the case, advertising at the shop and on social media can help. Talking to regulars who may be looking for jobs and would enjoy working there will be ideal for those types of shops.
If you’re interested in hiring younger baristas as well as students, advertising in the local colleges can help. This will work well if your shop is in a college town. You also have a wide range of websites (IE Indeed, Monster, even Craigs List, Facebook, and LinkedIn) if you want a wider reach, or you’re a brand-new shop with no regular customers yet.
MAKE SURE THE EMPLOYEE MATCHES YOUR SHOP’S STYLE
Before you fully open your shop and start hiring, determine the esthetic. Are you more of a shop for hipsters or professionals? Does your shop have a more casual or formal feel? Once you determine the feel of the shop, you can find people who feel right staffing it.
If you have a more formal feel to the shop but students are the only ones staffing it, that could create confusion and they would potentially not work. At the same time, determine the dress code and see who is willing to abide by it. If you’re opening in a college town, they won’t mind going to a shop with baristas who have dyed hair, piercings, or tattoos while a shop geared to professionals or older adults may frown on those.
SPECIAL TRAITS TO LOOK FOR IN THE INTERVIEW
One of the most important traits to look for is energy. Are they high energy and friendly? Are they able to handle themselves in rushed and slow periods? Any position working with people will require the ability to handle rude customers without problems as well as a friendly demeanor with the general public. During the interview, are they able to speak clearly and maintain eye contact? Do they show confidence in the way they present themselves? All those are important to look at but remember that interviews can make people nervous, so a few “ums” or dropping eye contact may just be nerves.
Another important quality is that they will be easy to train and pick up the different jobs quickly. If they can’t pick things up, they may end up either not working out, messing up, and having to be fired or cracking under the pressure during the first rush. If they are used to working in a team, working during rushes, and multitasking, they should be able to work out pretty well. If they get along with the other baristas, that’s even better. Tag teaming during rushes works best.
Look at the work history. If they have experience working for a coffee shop or restaurant, that’s a good sign. They already can handle rushes and higher stress situations. Even if they don’t have a history of being a Barista, if they have retail experience, they can be a pretty good candidate as well. Retail experience shows they can handle working with people, busy seasons, and dealing with rude customers.
Remember that they don’t necessarily need experience with being a barista already. Even if they don’t, you will train them for your specific drinks and your business’s needs. If they already used to work for a shop, they may get mixed up or may have learned things differently from how you want them to do it. You do want some who have experience since that will show they understand specialty drink mixing, even bartender experience can help.
Look at your state’s laws. Some states require a food handler’s license. If you live in one of those states, make sure they either have one or are willing to get theirs in the first 30 days of working for you.
HOW SHOULD THE FIRST INTERVIEW GO? WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK AND TEST FOR
When you finally come up with a list of the resumes and applications you want, you have the beginning interview. This interview will help you narrow your search down for the ideal candidates for the shortlist. What are some questions that may be worth asking to set the best candidates apart from the others?
- “Tell me about yourself,” this is a common interview question, but can give you an idea of what the candidate feels will make them the best person. It will also show how well they think on their feet and how well they can communicate.
- “What similar jobs have you held?” Ideally, you would like them to have held another barista job, but any customer service or food service job will work. Anything that lets them show that they have experience dealing with crabby customers or lunchtime/holiday rushes.
- Come up with some likely scenarios they will have to deal with to see how they would handle the situations. Look at a typical lunch or breakfast rush and tell them to describe how they would handle being overwhelmed. Think of the rudest customer a barista has had to deal with to see what they would do in that situation.
- Make sure they can meet the availability you need. If they can only work on nights and weekends but you need a day, they won’t work out.
- Quiz them on their ability to handle money, count back change, handle complaining customers, and mix drinks. Tell them about some of the drinks you make and see if they seem they can learn fast enough. You might even want to give them the ingredients and a recipe and see how fast they can mix one.
- Introduce them to the other workers. Watch how they interact and see how the other workers feel about them. This will be especially important with the short-listed candidates who are in serious consideration.
1) If they have former coffee shop experience test them on making drinks that only your coffee shop offers.
2) If they have retail experience test them on counting money back or taking an order.
3) If they have no experience test them on customer service and how they would deal with customers who are regulars or even unhappy customers.
Most importantly when testing them make sure you pay attention to how they act and treat potential customers as well as other employees.
HOW SHOULD THE SECOND INTERVIEW GO?
Now that you’re on to the shortlist, should you call people back for a second interview? That would depend on how you feel the interview and hiring process should go. You may know enough from the first interview to know who you want to bring on, you may want a second opinion from your second in command.
More barista tips HERE.
YOU OFFERED THE JOB, NOW WHAT?
Once you have extended the job offer and they accepted and made it past any drug or background check you required, what should you look for?
Now you picked the barista you felt was the best fit. You want to make sure they can pick up the skills they need. They may be very personable and work well with others but after the trial period, they still can’t get the specialty drinks mixed right. If there is a customer service position open that doesn’t involve mixing drinks, you may want to try them at that position. Same with someone who may have a great work ethic but is not a people person, they may do best in the back away from customers.
Frequently Asked Questions
According to job sites, barista wages start at minimum wage and go up depending on the shop and experience. If you are looking for new baristas or students, minimum wage may work but if you are looking for seasoned, lifetime baristas you will need to up your pay. Look at your full budget and determine how much you can afford to pay the right baristas.
You should look at your coffee shop’s hours to make sure you have at least 2 baristas per shift, during light shifts you may be able to just have one. During busier shifts, three may be required. Also, count for call-offs or days employees needs off. If you only hire two and one calls off during a busy shift, that will leave only one to handle a rush.
Make sure you have enough to pay each employee without it straining your budget.
This could be a personal question but typical shifts could be breakfast and lunch; breakfast, lunch, and dinner or breaking it down into 4, 6, and 8-hour shifts.
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!