What is this career about?
First and foremost, a job at a coffee shop is a food service job. It’s about getting the customer what they ordered in a timely fashion. As with any food service job, there’s a need for great customer service, too. You should be focused on giving your customers the experience that they come to your shop for, all while being friendly, following all food safety regulations, and doing what you need to in order to help keep your company profitable.
What growth is likely?
There are over 240 million adults in the United States, and about 200 million of them are coffee drinkers. Many of these drink coffee on a daily basis, and that has created a huge demand for specialty coffee shops. Many large chains catering to this audience have popped up across the country, some with more success than others. About ten years ago, many chains were shutting stores down because they had grown too quickly, but this has changed over the last couple years. Now that upper managers have a better feel for what kind of growth is sustainable when it comes to opening new locations, although that growth is a little bit slower than it once was, it is far more reliable now than ever before. This means that if you apply for a job at a coffee shop, that shop is more likely to be around in a few years than it was before. For those looking for something stable, this is good news.
The rate of growth in coffee shop locations has slowed down quite a bit lately, but this is actually a good thing. The stores that open are more likely to stay open now as more research has gone into where they should be located and risk assessments have been run on the likelihood of success. Starbucks specifically ran into this problem several years ago, but they have more than overcome it, seeing their company become far more profitable than ever before.
Coffee shop workers tend to start out making around minimum wage or slightly higher, but growth can occur quickly, especially in larger chains. You can also incorporate tips into the base wages you will be earning here. Many shops can see tips go as high as $2 per hour or more. Besides entry level jobs, there’s also a need for shift supervisors and managers in each shop. Corporate structures require regional and district management, too, which can be a great opportunity for those that want to turn a job in a coffee shop into a professional career. These can pay $50,000 a year or more, depending upon the success of the chain that you are employed with.
How to succeed?
Success in a coffee shop career is all about exceeding customer expectations. Studies show that customers that are happy with their experience are far more likely to return to the shop, and this means that creating a loyal base of customers is key. It doesn’t matter if you are working with a large national chain, or if your store has just one small shop area; having a good core of customers is a must for successful cafes, and this starts with the baristas and coffee servers that work there.
A knowledge of basic customer service skills is needed, as is a talent for making the drinks that are ordered. Many smaller coffee shops have bakeries included, and this means taking both drink and food orders accurately. Different stores will have different internal rules for employees, and adhering to these is also a solid step toward success. For example, if your café has a dress code, making sure that you always show up to work in the appropriate clothing is a good way to show your boss that you are serious about this position and that you are willing to work hard.
Finally, be sure that you are professional. This is a career where many younger people apply. Age isn’t a determinant for success, but maturity is. It doesn’t matter if you are 16 or 36, if you are able to look and act like a professional, you can be a standout among your coworkers and accelerate your career trajectory.
Who should apply?
The people that succeed in coffee shops are those that have an appreciation for coffee and coffee based beverages, as well as those that enjoy helping others. There’s not a need for food service experience, but it is helpful. Also, having any sort of retail experience can be a plus, but again, is not needed.
Applications for coffee shops still are processed mostly in person, although some of the bigger chains have moved toward an online application format. If you are interested in applying for a position, it’s a good idea to check in in person at the shop you want to work at first and speak to a manager. This gives managers an idea of who you are and what you are like. If they have a position available, they will let you know. If not, they will most likely still encourage you to apply as most shops keep applications on file for up to a year because there can be frequent openings within the industry. Being patient is a key component of landing the job you want, and this is a good measure of whether or not you will succeed here as patience with customers is a must for success.
- Barista Talk Forum
- Reddit: How to get hired at a specialty coffee shop with no experience besides loving to make a daily cup
- Reddit: Tips/Advice and landing a Barista job?
If you’d like to get hired at your local coffee shop it’s important to understand what a prospective employer would be looking for. Reading up on what it takes to be a barista is a good first step, and might give you some helpful insight on what to put on your job application!