BeanScene Magazine

Staffing for Success – How to find the best employees for the job

From the November 2011 issue.

Paul Jackson, Managing Director of Danes Gourmet Coffee, outlines some of the key traits to look for when hiring the right staff for your cafe

Running a successful café is no easy feat, but you are halfway there once you recognise the importance of having the right staff on board. The ultimate goal of any café should be repeat customers and a large part of this comes down to the quality of your baristas. Not only does a well-trained barista make an excellent coffee every time, they also know how to interact with customers and make them feel welcome. Formulating a well-trained team, incidentally, is also one of the most challenging aspects of running a café, but one that’s worth making the effort for.

The right stuff

While it would be wonderful to have perfectly trained, seasoned baristas lining up to work for you, the reality is very different. Every café owner is after the perfect, ready-to-go barista, but there just isn’t the supply to keep up with the demand.

For this reason, when hiring, it is crucial to focus on the “unteachable” traits of a prospective employee. The right person for the job may not be an espresso expert, but they will have the right attitude and disposition for a role which is essentially about dealing with people in a friendly, professional manner.

Look for extroverts – those with a bubbly personality who will naturally engage with customers. Good baristas often come from the more creative segment of the population, such as musicians for example. People who have a creative inclination are able to apply this to the machine once they understand the techniques involved in coffee making.

Look for the raw materials

Hire your staff based on their barista potential rather than their experience and it will open up a much wider pool of applicants. That’s not to say a little bit of experience isn’t helpful, but cafés need to understand that training is something that’s part of the café business.

A café should expect to take on staff that will require training in order to fulfill its staff requirements. It doesn’t matter if an applicant doesn’t have the technique in place – if they’ve got the right character traits and a positive attitude, they have real potential to become a great barista.

Train from the outside, fine tune from the inside

So, you’ve got the right people who are ready to be molded into top notch baristas – now what? Most cafés are not actually qualified to train their baristas, which is where the importance of having the right coffee roaster partner comes in. Many cafés miss out on this key relationship because they don’t appreciate how much a good coffee roaster partner can do for their business.

A coffee roaster partner isn’t just about the coffee – a good coffee roaster partner will also provide you with high quality training. If your coffee roaster doesn’t provide this, you’re missing out on one of the most important parts of the partnership. Ideally, a coffee roaster will ensure both the owner and manager are both highly trained, at an expert level. Other staff can then be trained in a program offered by a reputable training organisation. For instance, we offer the Danes Gourmet Coffee Institute.

It only takes one bad coffee to lose a customer, so making sure your entire team is highly trained is a necessity. High standards begin at the top and with the right support and guidance, the owner and manager will be able to transfer their expertise onto more junior staff.

Leave training to the experts

Similar to the trades, the café industry needs to take it upon themselves to bring apprentices into their environment. This does not necessarily mean that cafés should then take it upon themselves to train staff up to the level required.

Just as a restaurant wouldn’t dream of totally training a chef, cafés need to appreciate that they cannot train baristas to a high enough standard, which is again why it is a major advantage to have a coffee roaster partner who has the training expertise behind them. Astute café operators must be able to recognise whether the training offered is a simple marketing exercise or a genuine, effective training program.

Continually using your coffee roaster as a source of knowledge will ensure you are up to speed on the latest developments in the coffee world. This deepened understanding is then transferable to the entire team.

Ongoing education in a formal setting is also something to consider for each of your baristas, as not only does this extended knowledge have an effect on their overall performance, but it will also serve as a tool for motivation. The Danes accreditation, for example, enables a barista to track their progress, and to move themselves up through the ranks. Formalised accreditation and training provide a measurable gauge of skill level so that baristas can aspire to the highest level of training.

Recognise the rewards

As in any business, you are only as good as your people. A well-trained employee will put passion, understanding, technique and knowledge into each cup of coffee they make. When your entire team is highly qualified and producing consistently superior coffee, your customers will return, time and time again. A highly qualified barista team is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to a cafe. Invest in your staff, and you’ll be on the road to making the most out of your café.

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