Hiring a Barista: How to Choose the Best Staff for Your Cafe
by Scott | September 15, 2022
The Canadian coffee industry is a $5 billion enterprise employing over 54,000 people. Canadians love their coffee and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Plus, exciting new trends in coffee are bound to emerge and the quality of the products on offer will keep getting better and better.
But more important than trends and developments are people. Customers love the experience of entering an inviting coffee shop and interacting with a friendly barista. The cherry on the cake is picking up a beautifully crafted beverage they could never have made at home.
Hiring the right coffee shop barista matters. Let’s take a look at how coffee shop owners can consistently hire the best barista each time.
Get the Job Description Right
Here’s a basic tip that applies to hiring a barista and pretty much anyone else. You need to nail the job description so that from the off the right candidates walk through the door.
Sure, there are plenty of intangibles you can’t include in a job ad. That’s what the interview’s for. The advertisement needs to highlight the essentials.
First of all, be very clear about what the role involves. Be sure to include inclusive statements so that they understand they’ll need to lock up as well as make coffee. Also, be as specific as possible about the working pattern.
Once you’ve nailed the ad, form a clear impression of the kind of person you’re looking for.
Consider a Coffee-Focused Question
As well as the usual information you collect from applicants, what about including a coffee-related question?
This could be something like, ‘tell me about your favourite coffee origin and why you like it’. This gives them a chance to show their passion for coffee.
Attract the Best Applicants
It’s important to make your coffee shop appealing to the best applicants by capitalizing on your ‘origin story’.
Everyone loves to know how a business got started, what its ethos is and what goes on behind the scenes. A carefully curated social media presence is a great way to do this. It’s a chance to celebrate the culture of your cafe, introduce key members of staff and subtly show why it’s an awesome place to work.
Focus on Qualities as Well as Skills
Skills can be learned, but qualities are another ball game.
Of course, people can be trained to be more friendly and welcoming. But ideally, a barista will come with these qualities. Because when you need a barista, you don’t just need someone to make coffee.
The best barista makes people feel like they are valued customers. They listen carefully and patiently to their orders and aren’t afraid to engage in a little small talk. They exude warmth and enthusiasm for the job.
They also need to be team players who will turn their hand to whatever tasks are necessary to get the job done.
Finally, think about the skills that are important in your particular business. What separates an average barista from the best in terms of knowledge? Is it things like knowing not to reheat milk or not to tap the basket with the tamp?
When you ask them to demonstrate their skills, what specifically are you looking for? Someone who can produce something in the shortest amount of time? Or a barista who keeps the place clean and tidy while crafting exceptional beverages?
Having all of this in mind before advertising and interviewing does both parties a favour. You’ll hire a barista who is a great fit for your coffee shop and you won’t waste their time either.
Prepare for Interview Success
You’re a coffee shop owner and you’re no doubt great at it. But being an interviewer needs a different set of skills. You have them – you just need to prepare well to be successful.
After you publish your ad, the applications will start flooding in. Now you need to whittle them down to a shortlist and invite them in for an interview. Don’t do this in an ad-hoc fashion.
Interview Like a Pro
Set aside a day and invite them in one after the other for properly scheduled interviews. And if possible, bring in the cavalry. Panel interviews are best because it takes the pressure off you.
You have one or two more people forming an impression and asking questions you forgot. Ideally, choose people who are already great baristas. They know what they’re looking for and will have a good idea of whether the candidate is trainable.
It’s a good sign if a barista can confidently answer questions about different coffees and how to make them in their interview. Even if they’re not the most experienced, it shows that they cared enough to do their research first.
Set a Practical Test Element
When you hire a barista for a cafe, you need to see their skills in action. But be kind. Even the best barista can get a little clumsy and flustered in an interview situation.
Give them some time without you watching to work with your machine and make a couple of practice drinks. Ask them when they’re ready. Then you’re setting them up to excel.
If they’re super nonchalant, this could also be a warning sign. You’re looking for someone who cares enough to be a little nervous. Employees like that are also easier to train in new skills.
Decide with your team on the drinks you’d like them to prepare. Expect competence but don’t expect perfection. You can even ask them to critique their own drink and say what they may have done differently.
This can also give you an insight into their passion and their knowledge of coffee.
Don’t Hire on the Spot
When you’ve done with all your questions, resist the temptation to hire an outstanding candidate on the spot. Thank them and tell them that you’ll be in touch soon. Then take time to discuss the decision with the panel before deciding on the best barista.
Don’t Skimp on References
You can make a job offer subject to satisfactory references. It’s best practice to ask permission first before contacting former employers. But these can give you an insight into the kind of employee they are so that you hire the best barista the first time.
Take care when doing this because there can be legal pitfalls. This is especially true if you’re requesting other background checks such as criminal record checks. Work with a referencing service so that you don’t fall into discriminatory practices.
Hire the Best Coffee Shop Barista
The best coffee shop barista for your cafe is out there – you just need to ask the right questions.
Look for someone who understands that they’ll be your brand ambassador. Focus on people skills as well as coffee-making skills and you won’t go wrong.
At Velvet Sunrise, we have worked with coffee businesses of all shapes and sizes for many years. We can provide consultation services, cafe supplies, barista training and, of course, coffee!
Click here to learn more about our wholesale coffee service and why we’re the best choice for your business.