I will be opening a small coffee shop in England. We will be heavily focused  on producing great coffee ( Synesso Cyncra + Anfim Super Caimano combo)  and we are going to use beans from one of the best roasters in England.


I make espresso based drinks at home for myself. I've read lots on the internet and bought many books on the subject of coffee and coffee.business BUT I have never worked in a coffee shop before.


My aim is simple : To make the best coffee in the town. Sooo the questions is  "Shall I hire an experienced  Barista from the beginning "  or  I train myself and all the other beginners and hope we get to a decent standard in a few months?


The shop is due to open in about 4-5 weeks.


As usual, thanks for all responses in advance.





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If you want to hire an experienced barista so that you will not have to train them much...or at all...or worse so you can learn yourself...then you are on the wrong track.
You have to be the one to set the drink standards. And as the standard bearer(meaning that you are the example that you want your employees to follow) and the trainer you must look at prior work experience of a potential employee as possible evidence of good character development and not look at it as filling a gap in our organization.
If you are not trained yourself then you should get trained and learn how to train. If you let your staff do what they want because they have past experience...any objections you have to their performance will be met with scoffing because they can call your bluff. Now, that does not mean that they should not obey you...they are your employee. You can, however, avoid the situation of friction in the ranks if you start with a coffee bar that looks less like a question mark and more like an exclamation point!
I would say hiring an experienced barista, in your case, is akin to hiring a manager: if you want someone to take charge and be a leader of your staff, do it. Just be ready to give them a certain amount of freedom in how things are done behind the bar. And be ready to pay them a professional's wage.

I'd also point out that the internet and "coffee" books are FULL of useless and often wrong information (not to say there isn't great information out there, especially from the many industry pros here on BX). But there is absolutely no substitute for café experience. If you want your café to be the best in town from the beginning, hire a pro and let them start training your staff NOW (5 weeks isn't much time). If you want to be the best in town in a year or two, you have more options.
"I'd also point out that the internet and "coffee" books are FULL of useless and often wrong information"

The same could be said of hiring a barista when you yourself do not know how to discern what is useful and right information.
do you want to control quality and be hands off letting your manager dictate the standards? or do you want to be the standard bearer?
You will open in five weeks time...and will find that to be the best you must learn and grow into being the best...especially considering your lack of experience. But if your goal is long term success and quality control you have to be the one who tells the baristas whats up not the other way round.
Your barista, no matter the pay check, will leave before you do. And your standards may suffer as a result.
I'd say that hiring someone, if not multiple people, with experience is a grand idea.

I feel like hiring people with experience gives you a little security, anyway. I'm assuming that this "initial training to set a standard" would still happen, regardless of whether or not your staff has experience. See, in my opinion, if everyone is going to go through some sort of training in order to set standards, and generally learn how to run the shop the way that you, the owner, wants it run, making sure they have previous experience saves you a bit of time and provides some security cushion. Versus having to train people from the beginning, making sure that you hire people with previous experience ensures (hopefully) that they already know details about espresso, how to extract a shot, steam milk, and prepare general drinks. Bam - that's hours of training that you don't have to worry about. The security cushion that I'm talking about comes into play when your shop is open and actually functioning as a coffee house - if people have been in the thick of things before, you're far less likely to have an overwhelmed barista struggling to get through a line up of customers and drinks.

I say this because at a recent job venture of mine, I was the barista hired who had the most experience - one other girl had worked at coffee place for a year or so before, but everyone else had to be trained from the ground up. We had probably a week's worth of training (total), but this was before the shop actually opened. So, essentially, people knew how to produce average drinks, but when it came time to multi-task, handle customers AND an espresso machine, etc, they got flustered, frustrated, and their self-confidence plummeted - resulting in a huge, crema-topped mess. The shop I work at now, I've been at since it opened 2.5 years ago. We all had barista experience before we started there, and we went through a standard "this is how we do it here" training session. We've had a little turnover here and there and now, if we hire someone with no previous experience (which we have), it's a lot easier to train them from the ground up - everyone else knows their stuff, we've had the place up and functioning for a while, and it's easy to have them shadow us if we get busy and they begin to get flustered.
Excellent point.

Deferio said:
"I'd also point out that the internet and "coffee" books are FULL of useless and often wrong information"

The same could be said of hiring a barista when you yourself do not know how to discern what is useful and right information.
Chris has some good advice here.

Experienced baristas can turn your shop into a carbon copy of their previous employer if you let them. Don't let them.

Learn the craft yourself, and look carefully for people that have the right attitude to help you execute your vision. You must, however, work to really understand your vision, be motivated to make your vision happen, AND be willing to enforce your standards to make this happen.

One of the nice things about coffee is that, once you know exactly what you are trying to achieve, truth is pretty self evident. A method either gets you closer to what you are trying to do or it doesn't. "This is how we did it at XXX" is only useful if how they did it gives you results that you are happy with... and that's pretty easy to prove or disprove.

Hope that helps.
I'm in a similar situation. I may actually be signing a lease for my first coffee shop this week (I hope mentioning this is not a jinx) and have no real hands-on experience. I've gone to ABC - and learned a ton from them, and spent lots of hours in coffee shops tasting the goods, and become a full time student of the industry for the past year. My plan is to hire experienced baristas and work with my favorite local coffee Doc for training and quality assurance. This way, I will have things done my way and to my standards - which are high, while taking advantage of the mechanical experience of my employees. Once being a bartender several years ago, I know the importance of flow when the shop get busy. The Doc will periodically stop in to make sure we're delivering the goods. Right Doc?
Something I've been kicking around, should I hire a full time employee or two part-timers for the same shift? On one hand, the full-time employee costs more per hour but has more incentive to work (benefits). On the other hand, when the FT employee gets sick or needs a day off, I need to scramble for help. Having a couple PT employees may provide more flexibility and cost less (no benefits).

Staying on topic - Regardless, they will be experienced baristas.
I have to strongly echo what Deferio and Brady have said. Deferio is one of the most respected professionals in the business, and knows what he is talking about.

What I would add to both the OP and Dennis is "What's the rush?" It seems like many new owners, more often younger than older, tend to be impatient about their opening. We took two years from inception of idea until opening. 18 months was finding the right space and negotiating a proper lease, and the entire time was used studying, attending trade shows, classes, and traveling to various caffe to see how the best did it.

How you prepare prior to opening is the most crucial aspect of your business, and lack of preparation is the single greatest reason why people fail. Knowledge of how and why a particular location is good, and if the lease is right, small business management, and accounting skills, training skills, and knowledge and expertise of craft. Once you open it's not the time to learn the ropes, it's the time to continue to pull away from everyone else. Do yourself (selves) a favor and take whatever time is necessary for YOU to become the expert, and delay your openings. You will fare much better in the long run if you do.

Frankly, without it, you might not survive.
Hi Folks, I suppose the rush is that I made the bid for the unit 20 months ago and since exchanging contracts I have started paying the rates and service charges for my unit. I have done a fair bit of research over the last 20 months other than actual coffee production in a commercial environment. The actual machine arives in 2-3 weeks time so I can't practice before then. My plan is too have a "soft opening" and only market myself to the offices above me. My plan is then to learn how to produce excellent coffee on a consistent basis. And then maybe in January or February start on a marketing drive for other customers, when I feel I am ready. Does this make a bit more sense?


I've only skimmed through the responses but it looks like they've offered a lot of solid advice. And I would say that it is your responsibility to be the expert and lead your team, however, you're four weeks out and, essentially, screwed.

With that in mind, have you formulated your vision for your shop? Do you know exactly what you want? Because the notion of making "the best" coffee really is quite vague and varied. If you haven't figured it out, you need to do so NOW. Sit down for the next day or two and really hammer out what you want.

When building Spro Hampden, it took months of thinking, planning and scrubbing to define the standards within which we would operate - and that's after I had six years of operational experience with coffee. Then, in the middle of it all, we decided that our current thinking wasn't progressive enough, tossed everything aside and started anew. In fact, you can do a tag search on my blog to see the progression, just visit onocoffee.com and tag search "project hampden".

For Hampden, we started out with an entirely new crew of people who we would train into baristas. Initially, I thought it would take a solid month but with build delays and other miscellany, the training took four months. In hindsight, I realize that four months was just barely enough time to get everyone up to speed as we were attempting a level of service never before attempted in the industry.

That said, four weeks is really cramming it and your best bet is to seek out an experienced barista. However, not just any barista will do. You need someone with a solid understanding of the craft and the line experience to understand flow and customer service. Remember earlier I said to sit down and figure out exactly your vision? Because now you have to find that experienced barista who shares that vision of coffee service. Find someone who can execute to that standard while training and leading a new team of baristas to carry that vision forward. Quite honestly, it is a daunting task.

Truth is, as the owner, you set the tone. You must be demanding and exacting. You must be ready to do what is unstomach-able to many people. You must be ready to reward and you must be ready to release people when necessary.

The difficult part is that you spent the past twenty months thinking and planning but it sounds like you haven't given much thought to the actual execution of operations. Time to get cracking and time to get hiring. You need to have found this experienced barista two months ago and with only four weeks, you need that person NOW.

Bear in mind though that you need to find the RIGHT person for the job. DO NOT take just anyone. DO NOT hire just to have bodies in the shop. Can you delay the actual opening for another month? If so, it will do you a lot of good. Yes, I understand it is the beginning of November and the pressure is on to open for the Christmas season. Yes, I understand you need to start making a return on your investment. But taking your time to find the right person and train the right staff will go farther towards lining your pockets than rushing to open for the Christmas rush.

Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression. You need to have rock solid product and service the moment you open your doors to the public. The right people will go a long way towards the longevity of your business. The wrong people (and this may include you) will be nearly a guarantee for mediocrity and failure.

Don't waste your hard-earned investment.

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