Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

Advice For New Baristas

on 21 August 2010

The hiring rush is in full swing at our store. I honestly can’t remember the last time I worked a shift where I didn’t have to deflect the question of if we were hiring, if we had applications, or if I could tell them how to get hired. I’ve even had people who haven’t been bothered to speak to me in years ask if I would put in a good word for them. Um, sorry, no. I only do that for people I like (you know who you are!).

However, it’s inevitable that we will be hiring new people soon. We’ve already had a new partner join us this month, and with two others leaving *sob* we’ll need another new person soon. Additionally, my two year anniversary with Starbucks was 3 weeks ago (yay me!), so I’m ready to impart some wisdom. So, if you’ve ever thought about working for Starbucks, or even if you do, here is some advice!

– First thing, learn the name of the company that supplies your store with the food and milk. Then, learn to say “[Name of company] messed up our order.” Trust me, you’ll use this more than you can imagine!

– Hold your breath anytime you are moving large quantities of matcha power. In this case, “large quantities” means anything more than a scoop!

– Wear black for your first few weeks. You’ll thank me later.

– Don’t open a bag of mocha powder under the air conditioning vent. Especially don’t do this if the air is on….

– Non-slip shoes. Invest.

–  ALWAYS empty out the used whipped cream canisters COMPLETELY into the trash before you take off the lid to wash them. Otherwise, they will spray EVERYWHERE when you take off the tops, because they are still pressurized. Of course, this is also an initiation joke that most partners love to play on newbies so you can pretend to not know this if you like being hazed!

– Speaking of whipped cream- only 16 ounces of liquid in there folks; don’t fill them all the way up. It will never “make more whipped cream”.

– It’s a good idea to keep your own personal sharpie in your apron pocket. Never be without one!

– Don’t ever let the customers rattle you; all you can do is all you can do. If you are on register, take a deep breath, make a joke, ask about their day, basically you can do anything to distract them while you gather your thoughts. On bar, just focus on one drink at a time. Multi-tasking comes with time, don’t try to be super-barista from day one. You will only frustrate yourself! Right now quality proceeds quantity. Repeat after me: “One drink at a time. One drink at a time.”

Moment of honesty here- we all have bad times on bar. I’m pretty good, but occasionally we have a night where we get slammed, people order the wrong thing, and everything generally goes wrong. When this happens, I still think to myself “One drink at a time” until I have everything under control again.

– Shake the soy!!!!!

– Make friends with the regulars. A good, moderate goal is to know 3 regulars by name AND drink from morning, afternoon, and evening by your 3rd month. Come on, I know you can do it; it’s just nine people and drinks! The regulars are what make this job amazing, so jump in and get to know them!

–  Just keep smiling. It makes all the difference.

– Don’t get dragged into store politics right off. Give everyone a fair chance before you start making assumptions about customers and coworkers.

– If you have trouble remembering something you are learning, go home and write it down! It sounds simplistic, but it makes all the difference. I have a little brown book of drink recipes, orders, and policies that I made by writing things down when I came home from a shift. That way, I had something to review before my next training session. You’ll move along faster if you do so, I promise you!

– Remember your Green Apron Values. Those will help you focus on what’s really important.

– Your fellow partners are your best resources! Don’t be afraid to ask them a question if you are unsure about something.

–  However, do keep in mind that shifts are shifts for a reason. If what they say disagrees with what a barista said, listen to the shift. Even if they are wrong, you’ll be better off. Trust me on this.

– Have fun!!!! It’s a great job; so sing, dance, and act crazy!

– Lastly, I’ll pass on the best piece of Starbucks advice that I’ve ever received. My manager told me on my very first day that if I ever started to dread coming to work, I needed to talk to her because something was wrong. That manager might be gone now, but it holds true. Whenever I dread work, I find a shift I trust to discuss my issues with. Usually they agree with me, are having the same problem, or they have a solution. So never suffer in complete silence; that’s not the Starbucks way. Now, don’t take this to mean that you should complain about every little thing that you don’t like, but don’t become bitter about the job. That doesn’t ever work out well.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if other baristas are reading this leave your advice in the comments and I’ll add them to the list! However, this does hit some of the most important things you will need to know to start out well. So, if any new baristas are reading this, good luck and happy brewing!


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