Attracting and keeping quality Barista talent: Can a business model help with this?

My partner is the owner of a small espresso drive through/coffee shop business in Libby, MT.

 

90% of her earnings come through the drive through.  Finding and keeping quality talent around is probably the biggest single problem she faces as an owner.

 

We just recently picked up the Selbysoft POS system, and it has been great so far, especially in terms of giveing her real time metrics on what is happening at her coffee window.

 

So here is my question  Are there any type of business model/financial set-ups that might help to attact and keep talent?

 

She currently pays an hourly wage, and the barista's keep tips, and make a fairly decent daily wage.

 

I keep wanting her to consider a co-op type concept, where the barista's are going the be paid for how many cars they push through the drive through, order time, $/order, and also based on the till for their shift.

 

I feel that tht tips should be put into the business till, and then distributed on the metrics.  I say this cause, good coffe is a much a function of the equipment, as it is the barista.  Put it another way, a great barista with crappy equipment can only do so much.

 

I'd like to turn this into a co-op concept, where people are showing up to make money, not to get paid an hourly wage and be non productive.  I want her to pay people more than she does.

 

Any thoughts from baristas/owners would be much appreciated!  I am not in the business, I just offer strategic guidance on her business model.

 

Thanks

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I would be interested in hearing some thoughts on this. I am entering into an agreement to take an hourly wage lower than I am worth along with a percentage of the coffee sales. We are working with a small business strategist to help with it. The owner is adding an espresso bar to her pre-existing bakery and we are trying to work something out for some long-term viability for us both.

 

As far as the tips comment goes, taking tips from baristas isn't a good way to keep them. A great barista on "crappy" equipment will produce much better product than a "crappy" barista on great equipment.

 

Pay them well. Treat them better. Offer health insurance. Leave room for their creativity and input. 

 

 

Phil,

 

Thanks for the input, appreciate the words of wisdom.

 

Taking tips from the barista's would obviously be an unpopular concept unless you are clearly replacing that with "something".  My intent would be to pay the people "more" to be there and produce under w co-op type of a concept.

 

Instead of the "tip" being their primary source of income, I would like for their income to be ted directly to drive through metrics that are easily measured with technology, and simple to track.  Plus, use of those metrics would allow for you to notice differences between people, and possibly serve as a source of motivation as well.

 

I just feel that the person at the window who is oriented towards making "tips", might not necessarily be oriented to making more money for the business through the window.  Perhaps they would spend a little more time talking with their big tippers while the line suffers...I dont know.

 

I like the concept of offering health insurance, but that isn't necessarily a big attractor to younger barista's possibly

 

Thanks again for the thoughts

Hava Java,

 

I think I see what you meant. I guess I should have asked what their starting pay was. Tips have always just been a means extra income based on customer service for us. Our starting pay was very good. Except increases didn't come as expected...

 

My four points at the end were directly related to the reason for turnover at my last coffee bar. That's what I took away from there...

Business model:

Hire hard working people and pay them accordingly.

You get out what you put in. Quality hard working baristas worth having and keeping are made...not hired.

When a barista is first hired their wages are more charity. They have not done anything yet...in fact they are often more a liability than an asset. The hourly rate is the owners vote of confidence that essentially says "it trust that soon you will earning what you are making"

The more attracted people are to your financial model as a motive for employment the less likely they are to be a barista worth keeping.

 

 

 

+1 Deferio. The charity comment is maybe the wisest single sentence I have heard about the coffee business in my six years doing it.

Deferio said:

Business model:

Hire hard working people and pay them accordingly.

You get out what you put in. Quality hard working baristas worth having and keeping are made...not hired.

When a barista is first hired their wages are more charity. They have not done anything yet...in fact they are often more a liability than an asset. The hourly rate is the owners vote of confidence that essentially says "it trust that soon you will earning what you are making"

The more attracted people are to your financial model as a motive for employment the less likely they are to be a barista worth keeping.

 

 

 

Phil,

 

Starting wage for primary barista is 8-10 $/hr ( I will have to confirm this however), and they will typically leave with 60-100 in tips for a 5 hour shift, depending on a number of variables.

 

Please remember we are in a very rural area, and this is a highly competitive wage

 

Thanks for the input Phil

Phil Roberts said:

Hava Java,

 

I think I see what you meant. I guess I should have asked what their starting pay was. Tips have always just been a means extra income based on customer service for us. Our starting pay was very good. Except increases didn't come as expected...

 

My four points at the end were directly related to the reason for turnover at my last coffee bar. That's what I took away from there...

Deferio,

 

Hire hard working people and pay them accordingly.


I totally agree with you, and would prefer to pay more to get more.  Even though we agree, there is a whole lot of implementation questions that need to be figured out.

 

What is the best way to pay them accordingly?  How do you reliably hire "hard working people"

 

Staffing has been our biggest problem since the get go, either getting someone to show up in the first place, or getting them to perform once they do show up.  The business makes money, and has established clients, and is growing continually.  It would be great to get some like minded people together, and get this thing away from the hourly mentality

Hiring and training is an expensive prospect for a small business.  Especially when there is high turnover.  I'd like to have the potential to attract higher quality people from more established jobs in the area

 

Thanks Deferio


Deferio said:

Business model:

Hire hard working people and pay them accordingly.

You get out what you put in. Quality hard working baristas worth having and keeping are made...not hired.

When a barista is first hired their wages are more charity. They have not done anything yet...in fact they are often more a liability than an asset. The hourly rate is the owners vote of confidence that essentially says "it trust that soon you will earning what you are making"

The more attracted people are to your financial model as a motive for employment the less likely they are to be a barista worth keeping.

 

 

 

I would really like to agree with Deferio's charity concept, however I have tried this approach several times with kitchen staff with little success. I have noticed that willingness to improve, and not resort to short-cuts, cannot be bought nor negotiated with an initial high wage. Without some sort of continual stimulus, eg wage increases, title, etc. many I have worked with seem to plateau just below what is constantly expected of them.  New recruits, unless they are already seasoned, are always a liability and for any business to succeed the liabilities need to be kept to a minimum, unless absolutely necessary. Offering clear explanations as to what is expected to earn $8/hr or $14/hr can give workers a choice to how much they earn. I tell my cooks that you will earn $8.75/hr if you can wash dishes properly and quickly, $10 if you can also do prep, $12 if you can also help out on the line, $14 if you can handle the line independently, $16 if you can keep food costs under 25%. This gives them clear expectations and plenty of mobility.

 

I have found that asking people during the interview, "what do you know about the company?" and "what can you offer that someone else cannot?" is a great way to gauge the seriousness of the individual, their motivation (or lack of it) to improve, and if they will take ownership of their place in the company. The main difference between the employees I want and the employees I will take is their own sense of ownership. If they know where they are needed and can see the effects of their labour/skills in their own pockets, employees will go a little further to doing a great job.

 

Low wages and high tips are a fact of the food service industry. However, there are many out there who wish to go beyond being a simple barista and want something they can take ownership of. It is no coincidence that many of the best baristi go on to starting their own shops. Possibly by opening your books to your staff and working their wage off fixed percentages might give them the ownership real professionals are looking for. While still being under your managerial/financial wing, profit sharing situations and partial ownership can be a great incentive. A sure way to cut the wheat from the chaff is by making employees responsible for food and labour costs and providing them with the information needed to manage themselves.

Deferio. I would sincerely enjoy hearing a reply from the concerns I posted. I hate to think that I am becoming a jaded cafe owner, remaining sceptical around the good work ethic of others. 

 

What is your timeline to get a new employee up to the necessary ability level to justify the high wages? How long have you (do you) accepted sub-par performance from new hires?

Do you pay all your employees the same amount? What is the bar that current staff need to get over to have an even higher wage?

Do you experience a large fluctuations in wage percentages when training a new hire?

 

kindly,

“Co-op” means different things to different people. But, whatever the OP is recommending, be sure:

  1. Your client stays in compliance with minimum wage laws.
  2. Employee tips are not redistributed to owners and managers, if that is prohibited under your state’s law (it is in California).
  3. The compensation rules are clearly spelled out in some kind of handbook, preferably signed by the employees.

Troy,

     Ability does not dictate pay as much as work ethic and above all attitude. I will not pay an amazing barista who is also a jerk higher than a mediocre barista that is a winsome personality. As for pay everyone starts at 8.50 and if they show aptitude and strong work ethic then they get bumped up usually to $9 or more depending on the level of of observable improvement. Then the staff who demonstrate aptitude and usefulness in other areas of the business (ie: management of inventory, schedules, etc) will get paid more than staff who are just making coffee. You always pay more for new hires even at a lower wage than veteran bar staff because they need to be baby sat and trained. If the new hire cannot hack it(learn quickly and eagerly) withing 2 weeks I start to think they are just not meant to be here and it would be cruel to both of us for me to continue them on life support. I feel like you may be looking for rules and universals for these things but you really only have principles that inform circumstance driven decisions. 


Troy L Mallett said:

Deferio. I would sincerely enjoy hearing a reply from the concerns I posted. I hate to think that I am becoming a jaded cafe owner, remaining sceptical around the good work ethic of others. 

 

What is your timeline to get a new employee up to the necessary ability level to justify the high wages? How long have you (do you) accepted sub-par performance from new hires?

Do you pay all your employees the same amount? What is the bar that current staff need to get over to have an even higher wage?

Do you experience a large fluctuations in wage percentages when training a new hire?

 

kindly,

Deferio,

Your practice does sound reasonable. Yes, I do look for universals because it I find it helps employees manage themselves. Some rules and principles no not need to be stated; help out more and you will get a raise, steal things and you will get fired. However, I have found that clearly outlining everything I expect from a position allows staff to manage themselves with the same bar. If I am not on their back, generally people feel more comfortable to be themselves.

Furthermore, when it comes to wage percentages, it is absolutely imperative to keep in budget. As previously asked, and let me know if I am prying, do you keep your labour costs at a low percentage continually to balance out when you need to add an extra body to a fully staffed schedule, or do you cut someone out of the schedule for shifts that you will be training to keep in budget.

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