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.



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Don't look at the individual when judging length of employment: Look at extending the average stay by half a year. You will be very successful when doubling it. You won't change the category completely--that's impossible. 

The term "barista" is almost always connected with young people, with a hip attitude. They come with flexibility, but that flexibility defines barista positions also as entry level jobs or part time jobs. It is not a protected term! But young baristas are social and jobbing butterflies--always a another opportunity on the horizon.

Here's a simple solution: Look into older employees.

The coffee shop of the bygone era had older waitresses, short order cooks, who knew their customers, were determined even stern with them, yet always funny or characters. They build 'anchors' within the store, as much as in the community. They also value health insurance offers more than a 20something, btw. 

Now what does 'older' employee mean? You would have to judge personal appearance, charm, wit, positivity, reliability, expertise with machinery, in the same way like any other age group. Give yourself role models who would certainly add cache and aura to your venture: Think Sam Elliott, Bill Cosby, and Hellen Mirren types. They can have 'satellites' of other young workers, baristas as well, but they would need to be aware that they are the 'hub'. Not competing for hipness, but all the missing things hip folks don't come with. And believe me, soon the younger folks will love the right older coworker for all the right reasons! And they stay longer as well.

Do outings, trips together. Let folks bond and listen to their suggestions. Encourage them to make them. They have to be on blogs and go to an SCAA show or Coffee Fest. Try to make it the most exciting job they had so far. It'll work!

Lots of good ideas being tossed around and the notions of percentage, profit, etc sharing are noble, but how many of you really have a firm grasp on your business and its numbers?  Before you start going off and offering large wages, giving away percentages and the like, make sure you know what's going on and that your business can afford it, otherwise you could quickly be facing bankruptcy.


Something that hasn't been discussed yet is the work environment.  What kind of environment and company culture do you have?  All the money in the world isn't going to retain personnel for long if they're miserable.  People do many things not for the money and people will work for you, as long as they have something to work for.  How high are your standards?  What is your reputation?  These are all factors that will come into play.



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