How to hire the best employees for your coffee shop

People love coffee shops. Coffee shops not serve only as excellent sources of caffeine, but they’ve also become hotspots for remote work, off-site meetings, and good conversation.

Like restaurants, the coffee shop experience is just as memorable as the food and drinks served. You want your customers to want to stop in, grab a coffee, and stick around. You want to be the go-to site for meetings, first dates, interviews, and catch-ups.

And your staff will make or break these goals.

So, how can you staff up so that your coffee is good and your service is great? Let’s dig in.

Outline Your Shop’s Needs

This advice can apply to any industry, but it’s just as – if not more – important for coffee shops.

There’s a ton of possibilities when it comes to starting a coffee shop. Before reading further, take a moment and answer these questions for your shop:

  • What are your hours? Will you operate mostly in the mornings, or will you serve all day?
  • What kind of beverages do you offer?
  • Do you also serve food, and if so, is it prepared in-house? Do you serve mostly breakfast and/or lunch, or do you simply serve snacks?
  • How will you primarily serve your customers, from the counter or each table?
  • What environment are you aiming to create?
  • Do you plan to become a coffee “authority” in the market and connect with other coffee connoisseurs?

These answers will dictate how you define your employee positions and move forward with hiring, so make sure you thoroughly review each question.

Define Each Role

As a coffee shop owner, you’re familiar with just how many moving parts (and people!) are involved. Depending on the answers to your questions above, you’ve likely got baristas, cooks, roasters, buyers…and finally, managers to keep the parts moving smoothly.

To staff your shop for success, you’ll need to hire specifically for each role. Let’s define each potential job and discuss how to fill them.

  • A barista will prepare and serve your coffee drinks. They’re also the employees that will likely serve your customers at the register (and possibly the tables).
  • A cook will prepare your menu of food, if your shop serves freshly-cooked food. Depending on the layout of your shop, they’ll likely be behind the counter or back in the kitchen.
  • If your shop roasts coffee on-site, a roaster will be responsible for that. They’ll need to have experience and knowledge about roasting and preparing coffee.
  • A buyer will be responsible for the direct trade and purchase of coffee beans, and will also need to have experience and knowledge about roasting and preparing coffee.
  • A manager will be in charge of all the above persons, especially the baristas as they’re likely to work alongside them. Managers need to be familiar with general shop operations and overall business goals.

If managing these roles is daunting to you, check out Homebase as a free employee management solution. Homebase will equip your managers to easily schedule their employees, receive time-off requests, and track payroll, in turn making your life easier.

Again, not all of these roles will apply to your specific coffee shop. But, before implementing your hiring process, you need to recognize and prepare for the particular roles you’re filling. Hire for each position, and you’ll likely retain these employees for a long time.

Take Your Time Hiring

The thought of sitting down, interviewing, and assessing countless applicants doesn’t sound too fun, does it? But, the ultimate goal of hiring right is only having to do it once (or twice).

Staff your shop correctly the first time, and you’ll avoid turnover in the future.

Your coffee shop’s success isn’t necessarily derived from drink prices, location, or coffee sources. It’ll mostly be from who’s behind the counter, greeting customers as they prepare for an afternoon of work, an important meeting, or a much-needed cup of Joe.

Because of this, you need to spend ample time in the hiring process itself. Once you understand how your shop will function and determine the specific roles you need, you’ll have a much better idea of what individuals you want running your shop and interacting with your customers.

Whether you’re a new or existing shop, take the time to develop a method for recruiting, interviewing, and training. Putting in this effort will pay off in the long-run, and you’ll have a tried-and-true process for others to execute if you’re not present.

Here are a few actionable tips for the hiring process itself:

  • Ask open-ended questions in the interview. Not only will you learn more than a “yes” or “no,” but you’ll get a glimpse of each applicant’s personality as they answer. And character is what’ll contribute to excellent customer service – and coffee sales.
  • Prioritize experience, but don’t be afraid to hire someone that has none. Obviously, you want people behind your counter that can prepare and present food and drink in a top-notch way – you are in the coffee business, after all. But, don’t immediately turn away an applicant that hasn’t worked in the industry before. Someone with a blank slate can be trained well and to your preference. Personality and demeanor can be just as important as experience.
  • Bring on more employees than you need. A couple of new hires will probably not work out, and you don’t want to be stuck covering shifts or repeating the hiring process all over again. You can also conduct a one or two-month assessment period during which you can keep an eye on performance. This will provide an “excuse” for letting someone go if they don’t work out in the long-run.

To keep your employees around – and avoid turnover – ensure that you pay them well. I’d advise a little over minimum wage so that you don’t lose them to competitors. Also, ensure you spell out the tipping process so that no employees are confused or become competitive.

But more than wages, we’ve found that predictable scheduling is the biggest driver of employee retention. That means using scheduling software like Homebase to provide your employees with their schedules in advance — along with the ability to update their availabilities and even trade shifts as their schedules change. Flexibility is key, and scheduling software makes it really easy for you to provide that extra flexbility without creating additional work for your managers.

Your priorities as owner should be to take care of your customers through taking care of your employees. Happy employees = happy environment = happy customers. And happy customers will help your coffee shop grow and thrive!

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