I know this has been a topic of conversation many times before, however I thought I'd bring it up again...

After working in the specialty coffee industry for nearly ten years now, I constantly run into Starbucks employees who come into our shop.  Which is great, don't get me wrong.  However they ALWAYS point out that they work there, or have before.

I guess what brought this on is a customer who has been coming in for awhile now, who I now have an interview with tomorrow was telling me that she knows "how to do everything already."

What makes these people think that they know how our business operates?  Or even make drinks correctly?

I guess I've never worked for a coffee chain before, but I really question how extensive their training is.

Comments?

 

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If you were brainwashed into thinking that the place you worked for was the best, their way was the only way and that so long as you followed their instructions to the T, without experimentation then you would think you already knew how to do everything to. Coffee isn't an evolving product to Starbucks, it's a dark roasted constant. The only thing that evolves there are syrup flavors and seasonal beverages.

But they make a mean milk shake...

;0)

-bry
Hi Matt, I've been in the industry for a couple decades now and as a professional barista looking for work and a former Starbucks barista I'd like to chime in. It seems we may be facing the same issue but from the opposite end of the spectrum from each other. To address your questions first, I can only speak for my self (not other former Starbux employees) here and although I don't always tell people that I worked at Starbucks I do feel good about it when it does come up in conversation. I worked at three different stores in two different cities and I enjoyed my experience and am glad that I got to be a part of that for a time. As far as training, I've worked as a barista at 13 separate retail operations for a multitude of different companies and Starbucks has a thorough barista training program that many, many privately owned specialty coffee retailers could take a lesson from. But yes Matt, I understand your point and agree that your questions and concerns are legit.
This very discussion you've brought up here is my dilemma too. I too have witnessed and heard about baristas that have a " Well, when I worked at "so-and-so" we did it this way.." type of attitude and are difficult to retrain because of it.

But in my personal experience, working for so many different companies I've gotten really good at being flexible and learning different ways of applying the craft and If I were applying for a position at your shop I would be looking to learn how you do things and how you want me to do things at your shop. I would hope that my previous experience would be a benefit to you in that I have a base knowledge from which to shape and mold me to your businesses particular standards. I would hope that it would make for a smoother transition into your biz for you, your staff and customers as opposed to if you had to train me from scratch in coffee, espresso & retail sales. My experience and willing attitude should save you some money and headache too with a shorter initial training time.
Maybe my attitude and willingness to be flexible and learn the way things my employers wants them done is rare among experienced baristas, I don't know.

I think many specialty coffee retailers are faced with these type of employees and previous barista experience seems to be frowned upon more and more by coffee retailers. I just found a barista wanted ad on craiglist that said, "barista experience not required, were not interested in fixing bad habits."
I already hesitated to apply even before reading this because this shop's staff is comprised of thin, beautiful teenage girls, which is a profile I most definitely do not fit.

So whats a friendly, professional barista with a great attitude to do? I don't know.
And whats a shop owner/manager to do when considering hiring an employee with previous barista experience? What if you used a couple interview questions to try and get a feel for the interviewee's attitude and willingness to be flexable and learn your way of doing things. How about asking something like, "As a barista, how do you like to work when your behind the bar, how do you like to do things?" If your potential employee goes right into specifics about how he/she prefers to work and make drinks... that might be a "red flag".
My answer would be, of course, "I want to learn how you and your staff do things here and I'm willing to adapt to your systems and preferences. And if I you like feedback, input, ideas or suggestions from your staff members I would love to share my knowledge and experience and contribute what I can".

What do you think about the interview questions idea Matthew? Hope it helped to get a different perspective. I'd be curious to know if you hire this customer that you wrote about and how it works out. Best of success to you Matthew! [_]D
when i worked at starbucks, i think i was the only person in the store besides the manager and one of the shift supervisors who'd had any previous coffee experience. the rest were hired away from mcdonald's, blockbuster, etc. that fact pretty much summed up the starbucks experience for me - insufficient carrots on a stick being chased by desperate people for pennies an hour.
Floating around on here somewhere is a thread about what questions to ask during interviews... To be honest, I don't have the energy to dig for it, but it was a pretty solid thread and I'm sure some "google advanced search" ing would bring it around for you.

-bry
From my personally hiring experience I would never hire someone that said, "I know how to do everything." That is a huge red flag and that would tell me immediately that the interviewer is going to be difficult to work with. In your case it doesn't matter if the person is a former Starbucks employee.

If you still feel that the person you are interviewing tomorrow has potential I would be very blunt with the interview. Let the interviewer know that you appreciate there confidence but you want to make clear they have to learn your policy and procedure (AKA drink preparation, Etc).
*sigh* at my shop, it always comes down to the great macchiato debate.....
What debate is this? I've never heard this one before...?

;0) (j/k...)

Just smile, nod and say okay and make them their vanilla latte constructed all bass ackwards. If they come back repeatedly then maybe introduce them to the concept of how screwed up their order is, but never on the first visit, that's my rule.

-bry

Jessica Elle Bee said:
*sigh* at my shop, it always comes down to the great macchiato debate.....
For the record I have hired a Starbucks employee once before (didn't work out, but that's a different story), but I always interview each & every applicant the same way. Fair & honest. Regardless of experience. I believe that during the intervewing process you should be open, & decide whether or not that they would be a fit for our business. Trainable, or customer service.... I have noticed that people with experience seem to be harder to train or break former work habits.
On another note. I rather enjoyed all of your comments.
I'm curious to see what will happen tomorrow... Keep you posted!
Well said Sterling, I agree. c(_)

Sterling Muth said:
From my personally hiring experience I would never hire someone that said, "I know how to do everything." That is a huge red flag and that would tell me immediately that the interviewer is going to be difficult to work with. In your case it doesn't matter if the person is a former Starbucks employee.

If you still feel that the person you are interviewing tomorrow has potential I would be very blunt with the interview. Let the interviewer know that you appreciate there confidence but you want to make clear they have to learn your policy and procedure (AKA drink preparation, Etc).
I think that all of us in the coffee industry, no matter what shop we work for or have worked for, have our own way of doing things. We all go into other shops critiquing, read threads and critique, judge and rejudge. We are a haughty group indeed. So, I will not cast stones at our Starbucks friends who do the same. To me it is just another barista from another shop.

Whether or not to hire should not be balanced on one thing this person said. I'm sure they are trying to impress you and let you k ow how valuable they will be. Just be upfront and say that you do things differently than starbucks. Ask if they are willing to do things your way without complaint. I would also advise to be as open to learning as you are to teaching. Starbucks does a lot of things right. They (a lot of times, not all) hire really great people who have great social skills. I can teach almost anyone how to steam milk. I can't teach them how to have good customer service and social skills in the face of an extremely diverse and picky audience. That is worth hiring. Hire the person, not the training background. My two cents.
I used to work at Starbucks too. There was this legend, back in the day, that Intelligentsia wouldn't even interview someone who had worked at Starbucks. Well, anyway, I got my interview at Intelly. I didn't get the job then.

When I applied at Joe in NY, I asked if I should even put Starbucks as part of my experience. They said sure. If you worked at Starbucks, at least you know to smile at customers and show up to work on time. But if someone has worked at Starbucks recently, it's pretty easy to tell if they'd make a decent employee or not.

Don't get me wrong. Starbucks is a great place to work. Better than fast food pay, no cleaning deep fat fryers, and health insurance? Not to mention a supportive work environment. Not a bad deal for entry level if you ask me.

Their coffee training? It's gotten worse and worse since I've worked there.

But hey, if this customer is coming to you for coffee, at least she knows that there's better coffeethan Starbucks. The question you need to ask is "are you willing to start from scratch - you work the register and sweep and mop ... are you willing to do that for a couple of months for learning to make coffee our way?" If she says yes to that, and seems to mean it, she's worth a shot.

Because in this economy, giving up a decent job with health benefits? Not easy to do. Don't dismiss her without getting a good idea of what she really thinks her skills are worth, and what she's willing to do to be better at coffee.
Matthew, I think this is the most responsible and equitable approach to the situation. It's sound logic to say that those with poor past experience may present a 'leadership challenge' (n. euphemism for a pain in the rear) if there is an unwillingness to break with old habits, but such individuals may also be future all-stars who simply made their first cappuccino at Starbucks and want to continue their development to someday become a barista jedi.

Matthew Pitts said:
For the record I have hired a Starbucks employee once before (didn't work out, but that's a different story), but I always interview each & every applicant the same way. Fair & honest. Regardless of experience. I believe that during the intervewing process you should be open, & decide whether or not that they would be a fit for our business. Trainable, or customer service.... I have noticed that people with experience seem to be harder to train or break former work habits.
On another note. I rather enjoyed all of your comments.
I'm curious to see what will happen tomorrow... Keep you posted!

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