In the first of series on working in hospitality, we gave you a glimpse into what it’s like to be a Barista. But first, you have to get the job (no easy feat in the current environment). That’s when you realise you still have it all to figure out.
There is no rule of thumb, every coffee shop is different. We can’t tell you what it is like everywhere but we can give you an insight into some of the things to expect.
The First Day
Day one and you’re nervously making your way to your new job. You’ve been to many coffee shops before and drunk plenty of coffee too but you still don’t quite know what to expect. If the Owner or Manager has done their job well, you will know what to expect in your first few days – but this is not always the case.
The first few days are quite intense as it is, so we always schedule a new starter as an extra member on the team. It may be overkill, having an extra member of staff on the floor for the first few days, but it’s for a reason. It takes the pressure off the new starter, the team don’t have to pick up your inexperience and the guests get a chance to meet you, without it affecting their experience or service.
Day one is quite a boring one. You start after the early morning rush, with the first few hours spent getting your paperwork sorted and running you through the basics of the company.
We go through the company policies – fire drills, health and safety, security etc. Then it’s more excitement as we go through the employment contract, pay and bonus, holidays, benefits and performance management. We run you through the history of the Business – Mission, Values, Organisation structure and what our core products are before finally explaining what we will expect and give you over the next few months.
We then go through the cleaning training before getting you on the floor. The rest of the shift is about cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, one of the fundamental parts of the job. Starting with cleaning is done for a couple of reasons:
- to make sure you are happy to get stuck into the cleaning (you’d be surprised how many people think being a Barista is all about making coffee – it’s not! Although that is certainly the most enjoyable part).
- It’s also the best way to learn where everything goes, which has the biggest impact on quickly getting you up to speed and useful. After you have put 100 plates away, you know where they go!
The First Week
So you survived the first day and came back for more. Day 2 is another afternoon shift, still easing you into the job. Before you’re let loose on the floor to do more cleaning, we give you some more training. Today, it’s all about the product. We run you through our menu, tell you what the best-sellers are, when and how we switch from breakfast to lunch to afternoon service and some of the basics of how to plate and serve our food and drink.
It’s then time to hit the floor and put your training into action as we get you set up on the food station. An afternoon of plating and serving sandwiches, soups, stews, cakes and running it over to the waiting guests. It gives you a chance to meet the guests and for them to meet you too. Of course, when you are not running the food and drink, your day one training kicks back in and you are cleaning up the counters and dishes once again.
At the end of the shift, we will go through the closing procedures with you before going through the workflow and basics of using the till. Hopefully, you will start to be familiar with many of the products in the till (after an afternoon of serving them) and it will all start to click into place.
Days 3 follows a similar pattern, but this time you are straight onto the floor when you shift starts. Running food and drink during the busy times, then jumping onto the till to get familiar with the POS (Point of Sale) system during quieter times. After closing, there is one more bit of training before you’re on shift without being an extra person. This training is all about the Customer Journey. We walk you through the standards of service, how we treat customers and the timings we try to keep to.
Days 4 and 5 you are on shift in your own right. Putting all the previous days training together and starting to really get a feel for the job. Hopefully, starting to enjoy it too. It’s been a long week though and your glad for that day off and a chance to rest your feet – who knew being a Barista was so tough on your feet!
The first few Months
You are a few weeks into the job now and it’s all starting to click. You know the customers, the till is easy to navigate and you are a pro at plating and serving the food…not to mention your hands are cleaner than ever!! But you have not yet made a coffee, you were hired as a Barista weren’t you?!
You’ve learned about tea and hot chocolate, been told about the theory of coffee and even spent a day as a Kitchen Porter (KP) meeting the kitchen team. But you have still not started your Barista Training.
If it’s our shop you are joining you won’t generally touch the coffee machine for a few weeks. Whether you are a complete noob or champion Barista, there is so much else to learn and it takes a bit of time to get your bearings and find your way around the shop. But now you have mastered that, it’s time to start your Barista training. So when you see it scheduled on your rota you are super excited.
Our Barista training is spread over 6-8 weeks and designed to get you signed off and certified as a barista within 3-4 months from the day you first start. There are 7 training modules and plenty of practice between. The modules are generally 1-2-1 training with the Head Barista after closing. You are also expected to practise that training during your following shifts. You are also assigned a mentor to help you hone the skills along the way and you will be put on shift together where possible.
Our modules include:
- Understanding the equipment – deep cleaning and safe use of the grinders, PuqPress, coffee machine, jug rinser and the reverse osmosis water filtration system
- Milk – What everyone really wants to know. This is quite often spread over two sessions but depends on how quickly you get the basics. It is largely learnt on the job with your Mentor though, as they say – practice makes perfect.
- Workflow – how to keep up with the rush and what to do during downtimes.
- Flavour Profiles – An introduction into the flavours you can get with espresso (both good and bad) and an introduction to dialling in and setting recipe.
- Setting the Recipe – Although you will not be setting the recipe you will be dialling in and this module helps you understand both.
- Test – A 90-minute practical test which covers all the fundamentals from dialling in, a timed order of drinks, deep cleaning the equipment and some theory questions to wrap up. The pass mark is high at 80% too!!
- Roastery Visit – On passing the test you’re rewarded with a trip to the Roasters (Square Mile in our case) for an extra training session and tour round the roastery. Square Mile are great at this and if you’re looking for a Roaster I wholly recommend them too.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t get on the machine for a few weeks. When you start your journey on the road to becoming a Barista, it is going to begin with a lot of cleaning, serving (but not making) and getting familiar with the workflow, team and customers too.
Once you get comfortable with all of that, you can start becoming a true barista. It’s not as easy as you think and you will get frustrated along the way but don’t give up. Once you’re there and know how to pour a heart, then tulip all the way through to a swan, you will have a skill for life. A skill and craft that will stand you well almost anywhere in the world – plus it’s great for your Instagram too!