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Unmotivated employees, sloppy work, and resignations from your best staff members – all of these can cause your coffee shop to become unprofitable. And maybe it’s due to a negative work culture. 

Your people are one of your largest investments and your most important resource. But as a startup or even established coffee shop, how can you plan for your employees to have a good attitude and you have high retention rates?

I reached out to Matt Milletto, vice president and CEO of Bellissimo Coffee Advisors, to hear his advice. He will lead the Campfire cafe: Retaining Employees meeting  and Coffee Business Start- up seminar with Bellissimo Co-Founder Bruce Milletto at Coffee Fest LA 2019 , from 25-27 August (sign up here). Matt has nearly 20 years of coffee consulting and coffee shop management experience, which also includes mentoring and training over 2,500 barista trainers and coffee business owners. 

The bar of a coffee shop. Credit: Neil Soque


“For us, it’s important to highlight the best in our employees and make them feel like they belong in our company,” says Matt. He claims that employees who experience a good work culture are happier and more productive, which, in turn, increases productivity and profit margins.

This is important, especially in a specialty coffee shop, as the business model focuses on creating and serving a great, personalized beverage consistently. The performance of your staff is essential to be able to deliver your product.  

In addition, it is a meeting that focuses on people. “Your business is only as strong as your team’s ability to create an experience that remains in the memory,” says Matt.

A positive work culture will encourage employees to stay with your company for longer . This not only gives you business stability, but it also allows you to avoid recurring hiring costs, forecast future earnings more reliably, and simultaneously track your staff development and sales growth. “

A stable workforce also fosters meaningful relationships between your staff and your customers, and keeps the latter coming back for more. It also results in better teamwork. “Places with positive work cultures have excellent communication, good spirits, and set goals together as a team,” says Matt. 

So, let’s see how you can plan for a positive work culture.

A barista extracts a shot of espresso


You cannot foster a specific environment until you know what you want. While some things are universal, others will be more specific to your company. Take the time to define your values. Then be sure to communicate them to your employees, either during onboarding or hiring.

“We have created simple core values ​​that are clearly explained to each new staff member the day we hire them, and even in interviews. We offer a comprehensive onboarding structure with reinforced continuing education and training, ”says Matt.

This gives staff a strong code of conduct, clear expectations to meet, and a structure for you, as the owner or manager, to follow up and comment.  

In a busy coffee shop


Regular communication with your team is essential to track performance and motivation, solve problems, and keep staff happy. However, if you wait until a problem arises, you could discover that there is already significant damage. It is much more difficult to fix a negative work culture than to create a positive one.

Plan Ahead: Make sure to organize regular communication meetings with your staff. Participate in each of them knowing what you want to say and ask, and listen to what your staff tells you. Create a training plan and implement structured, positive criticism methods that will be constructive rather than devastating.    

Make sure to acknowledge the successes of your staff at these meetings. “Recognition encourages positive thinking,” says Matt. “When people feel that their work is appreciated, it creates good energy and there is a domino effect.” 

Create a reward and advancement system that celebrates teamwork and be sure to congratulate staff members who help others. At the same time, it encourages a certain degree of autonomy in your team. This promotes the assumption of responsibility when something goes wrong, but also a collective pride when your team works independently and is successful. 

Also, you may find it helpful to create a mentoring system. Assign each new barista to one with more experience who can provide support.

Baristas working behind the bar


When your team members know that you support them, they are more motivated and loyal. “Respect is often earned through support,” says Matt.

Make sure you know the needs and wants of your staff, from their preferred pronouns to their career goals. “We also need to ensure that all staff are working to their full potential and have the opportunity to grow with the company, and listen to what their career goals are to ensure there is a path to success,” says Matt. 

Also, you should take the time to ask about their personal lives and thank them after working difficult shifts. Remember what is important to them and be prepared to be reasonably flexible. For example, schedule shifts so there is a break if staff need to be absent for an appointment. Also, it’s worth planning regular team activities, whether it’s a bowling session after work or a cake on someone’s birthday.   

“We have core values ​​that are essential and are based on… an ‘integration of work and personal life’,” says Matt. “We create an environment where we are excited to be and [provide] quickly support to others when they need it, or when they need a day off… Also, we create experiences outside of work, such as camping trips, community involvement and volunteer opportunities and local collaborations ”.

A barista pours latte art 


Do you know what to do if one team member accuses another of sending inappropriate messages, while the sender insists they “just wanted to be friendly”? What if you gave a team member an afternoon off because they worked too many overtime hours, but then another team member complains that they didn’t get the same benefit when they worked overtime the previous month? Or if a customer was aggressive with a barista? 

These types of situations can cause anything from a grudge to a lawsuit. To avoid them, establish rules from the beginning, as well as plans to elevate and solve problems. Also, you should make sure that your staff know the rules and know who to talk to if there is a problem. It is preferable that it be more than one person. 

If you update your rules, be transparent and get feedback from your team. Matt tells me that “explaining the importance of embracing change and growth will help involve your team in decision-making and open an environment that is based on positive and cohesive communication.”

Baristas working


Lastly, remember that you can’t think of (or know) everything. Using the advice of outside, objective organizations means that you are less likely to overlook a potential problem. In addition, it will improve your systems and you and your team will be more informed.

“Bringing in external trainers to help… empower your team with information to support them and the general public, as it relates to inclusion, hospitality, mental well-being and more,” says Matt. 

Good examples of using external trainers include participating in workshops on hiring bias, inclusion seminars, regular health or hygiene audits in coffee shops, and even coffee training classes to hone staff skills.

Baristas working

“I think if [a space] lacks a good work culture, there is an underlying feeling of chaos,” says Matt. “People do not communicate and only think about their interests.”

However, even before you open your coffee shop, you can begin to solve potential problems. Plan ahead to create an environment in which positive work relationships are cultivated. Know what you support, schedule criticism, create a mentoring system, and set your standards. It’s things like these that make your staff feel motivated, supported, and part of a team.



Source: Perfect Daily Grind


Please note: This article has been sponsored by Coffee Fest. 

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