Ok so lets you just moved somewhere new and your looking for a coffee job, naturally you want to work for one of the best cafes you can find. Lets say you apply at a lot of different places and eventually get hired at a big chain store(not starbucks) This hypothetical person needs insurance(he sees a doctor regularly and takes expensive medication), and the big chain store offers it. He also wants to open coffee shop of his own soon(next year or two) so money is a big issue, and the big chain store is paying me more than the average cafe. But he feels like he's emotionally being raped on occasion there, as some of you may know, big chain stores HATE complaints. So if a customers wants to be a raging dick head they can. And you get to smile and tell them thank you. Now I dont consider myself an angry person, quite the opposite really. But I cant help but feel like I'm selling my soul a little bit everyday i show up and take that sh*t. Plus theres stuff they do there that i dont agree with,like grind the coffee the day before they use it.(yes i said the day before) And they are way more focused on speed than quality(basically no time for latte art). So other than this being a rant, my question is, what would you do in this situation? Would you take less money and work somewhere else and delay your dream? I seem to be between a rock and a hard place…

Thanks

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Big chains can be good for developing a well rounded base of knowledge, maybe it's not coffee knowledge as much as general business knowledge. Learn what you can from them, maintain a good attitude, and keep working toward your dream. You've got to do what makes you happy, but sometimes what makes you happy in the long run isn't much fun in the short term.
Ya, thats good advice. I got my start at a big chain store(starbucks) which was good at the time, but after I worked for smaller family run coffee shop i got spoiled. I guess i feel like ive worked with coffee for 2 long(6 years) to be taking shit from suburban assh*les. Why do big chain coffee shops attract such dicks? I never had to deal with this large quantity of A holes at the smaller shops ive worked at.


Bob Von Kaenel said:
Big chains can be good for developing a well rounded base of knowledge, maybe it's not coffee knowledge as much as general business knowledge. Learn what you can from them, maintain a good attitude, and keep working toward your dream. You've got to do what makes you happy, but sometimes what makes you happy in the long run isn't much fun in the short term.
Bob's advice is good. Learn everything that you can while there.

Are you actively developing your shop concept right now? By actively developing I mean creating your detailed business plan, sketching up bar layout concepts, creating a visual design concept board (with color chips, fabric swatches, and pictures from catalogs and magazines), figuring out sizes, researching overhead expenses, figuring out target demographic and general locations, etc. If so, great! If not, you should start today. There's a difference between wanting to open a coffee shop and actively working to make it happen.

When we were developing our shop concept, I was working at a fairly well-run shop. It was so great to have that as a point of reference. Everything from "how many cups will we go through a week" to product percentage mix to menu pricing had a data point that was the next shift away.

There's a theory of small business structure that has you approach your operation as though it were the first store of a franchise. They suggest that you create processes and systems to handle everything. It is really a good approach, as it makes it possible for employees to run things just as well as you when you are not there. (Read "The E-Myth" for more on this). If you think about it, that's the one thing that large chains are really good at - making processes and systems so that anyone can do it.

Their suggestion is to make an operations manual. This manual details every process required to run your business - from brewing the coffee to cleaning checklists. Your current employer probably has one. You should have one too, though it may not need to be quite so formal. A spiral notebook with sketches, checklists, and concepts written in it is better than nothing.

My suggestion is to take a couple of questions to work with you every day, with the goal being to bring home the answers. You get to play secret agent for a little while, which can be fun. That doesn't mean make your cafe run exactly like your current employer, with every observation should come the question "how could this be done better". This gives your shifts more purpose, not that paying the bills isn't purpose enough.

On the question of jackass customers... use this as an opportunity to practice dealing with difficulty with a smile. Much as you'd like to think that you'll kick these people out for behaving badly when you own the joint, chances are that you won't. Well, you'll kick some out, but not as many as you'll want to.

Should you stay? I'd say stay until you've learned all that you can from them. I wouldn't leave until your business plan and operations manual were finished though.

Good luck!
Thanks brady, all of that is really good info. I totally agree theres a difference between wanting to open your own place, and making all the preparations to actually open my own place.(this is something that has recently dawned on me) So i have started taking actual steps, small steps but steps non the less. And i definitely like your idea of going to work everyday thinking about how things could run better, paying attention to price points, and just trying to stay aware of things that work well and the things that dont work so well. At the same time, I feel I might learn more of what I want my place to be like working at a cafe that i respect. Like I might want to just serve pour over coffee, but ive never worked at a place that does that, so it hard for me to gauge whether future customers would be receptive to that.

Thanks again for the feedback, info like this is invaluable.


Brady said:
Bob's advice is good. Learn everything that you can while there.

Are you actively developing your shop concept right now? By actively developing I mean creating your detailed business plan, sketching up bar layout concepts, creating a visual design concept board (with color chips, fabric swatches, and pictures from catalogs and magazines), figuring out sizes, researching overhead expenses, figuring out target demographic and general locations, etc. If so, great! If not, you should start today. There's a difference between wanting to open a coffee shop and actively working to make it happen.

When we were developing our shop concept, I was working at a fairly well-run shop. It was so great to have that as a point of reference. Everything from "how many cups will we go through a week" to product percentage mix to menu pricing had a data point that was the next shift away.

There's a theory of small business structure that has you approach your operation as though it were the first store of a franchise. They suggest that you create processes and systems to handle everything. It is really a good approach, as it makes it possible for employees to run things just as well as you when you are not there. (Read "The E-Myth" for more on this). If you think about it, that's the one thing that large chains are really good at - making processes and systems so that anyone can do it.

Their suggestion is to make an operations manual. This manual details every process required to run your business - from brewing the coffee to cleaning checklists. Your current employer probably has one. You should have one too, though it may not need to be quite so formal. A spiral notebook with sketches, checklists, and concepts written in it is better than nothing.

My suggestion is to take a couple of questions to work with you every day, with the goal being to bring home the answers. You get to play secret agent for a little while, which can be fun. That doesn't mean make your cafe run exactly like your current employer, with every observation should come the question "how could this be done better". This gives your shifts more purpose, not that paying the bills isn't purpose enough.

On the question of jackass customers... use this as an opportunity to practice dealing with difficulty with a smile. Much as you'd like to think that you'll kick these people out for behaving badly when you own the joint, chances are that you won't. Well, you'll kick some out, but not as many as you'll want to.

Should you stay? I'd say stay until you've learned all that you can from them. I wouldn't leave until your business plan and operations manual were finished though.

Good luck!
We sure do miss you here Susy! This place just isn't the same anymore...




Susel Perez said:
I hear ya! I'm currently experiencing the exact same thing.

My previous place of employment was a local chain staffed by knowledgeable people that trained me very well. Maybe TOO well

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