Tips and tricks to getting a job as a Barista
Baristas work in coffee shops or cafes and make coffee, tea and specialty drink creations. You’ll find baristas in chain coffee shops like Starbucks, in small, local shops, and everywhere in between.
Being a barista also often goes beyond creating coffee drinks. A great barista knows the origins and flavors of coffee, about the coffee production process, characteristics of different coffee, how the roasting process works, and how to create a drink for a customer based on their preferences.
A barista must be approachable, enthusiastic, and loves and is passionate about coffee. Baristas need to be able to work in fast-paced environments under pressure, while remaining calm and flexible. They should also be confident and creative, as they work regularly with customers and often will be creating new coffee drinks on the fly.
Here’s information about what a barista does, how to become one, qualities and skills you’ll need, and other information about the job as a whole.
A barista has a variety of duties they complete each shift, from managing inventory to taking care of customers. Baristas often start by helping to prepare the store for opening. They take orders, grind coffee beans, prepare and serve light snacks, create stock displays, keep track of inventory, and care for the machines and equipment. They also know how to make coffee, tea and specialty beverages.
Greet and welcome customers into the store.
Educate customers on the drink menu and answer questions about beverages.
Prepare and sell coffee, tea and specialty beverages.
Stock and clean equipment and supplies.
Prepare and sell food and snacks.
Clean and sanitize tables, waiting areas, and gathering areas.
Create stock displays and ensure products are stocked.
Take orders and cash out customers.
There are primarily two steps to take to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to become a barista:
Education. There typically aren’t specific education requirements for baristas, though most employers require a high school diploma or GED. While you may find specialized professional training or certifications online, they are rarely required to be hired. However, they may help improve your skills and knowledge of the industry and beverages, which can make you more successful on the job.
Experience. Having some experience in a food service industry or environment may be helpful, but is typically not required. Most barista roles are entry-level positions and training happens while on the job. This includes learning how to make beverages, take care of customers, maintain and clean equipment, and keep inventory, as well as increased knowledge about coffee and coffee beverages. The longer you work, the more experience and knowledge you’ll gain.
Important qualities and skills
There are several qualities and skills a good barista will have to be successful including:
Point of Sale (POS) systems. Part of your responsibilities may include taking orders and cashing out customers. This is often done through a POS system or cash register, so knowing how to operate these systems can be helpful.
Cashiering. Cashiering skills can also go beyond the technical portion of cashing out customers taking payments and making changes. You should greet customers with a positive attitude, know and understand your customers and be able to suggest drinks they would like based on their preferences, and answer questions about the menu or ingredients. Cashiering also often takes patience and basic math skills.
Technical skills. Making the beverages can sometimes take skill. It can be helpful if you already know how to properly make a variety of coffee drinks, including basic coffee, specialty drinks, and teas. You should also demonstrate knowledge of health and safety codes, as well as proper sanitation protocols so that your workspace is clean and all ingredients are properly stored and maintained.
Coffee knowledge. While often not required and typically learned on the job, coffee knowledge (and the ability to share that knowledge with customers when they ask questions) can set you apart from others. This could include knowing the origins and flavors of coffee, understanding the coffee production process, the characteristics of different coffee, how the roasting process works, etc.
Sales. Successful baristas are also salespeople. Knowing how to cross-sell and upsell products is an important part of the job. You also may have food, merchandise, or other items available for purchase, and selling those products to customers can take sales skills.
Attention to detail. You must be familiar with each of the coffee beverages on the menu, but know that many customers will make up their drink requests or have particular needs. Knowing how to accurately create and mix ingredients, remain focused during busy times, and create accurate beverages is an important piece to your daily interactions with customers.
Customer service. Because you’ll be dealing with customers throughout each shift, customer service skills will help ensure your shifts are successful and customers have a positive experience. Be friendly when interacting with customers, listen carefully to their needs, and answer any questions they have. You should also be prepared to work with dissatisfied customers and resolve their problems.
Multitasking. Successful baristas should be able to do several things at once. This could include cashing out customers and making beverages, making multiple drinks at once, answering customer questions, and keeping a clean workspace. In a busy coffee shop this can be stressful, but having strong multitasking skills can smooth this experience and help you to calmly and efficiently complete your duties.
Communication. When working with customers, you need to be able to communicate with them and answer any questions they have. You’ll also need to communicate both verbally and in written form to other baristas and colleagues to help ensure each beverage is created accurately and customers are satisfied.
Teamwork. During a shift, you’ll likely be working alongside other baristas, managers, or other staff. Having the ability to work well with a team, support other colleagues, collaborate, and communicate well are all positive skills to have as a barista.
Baristas typically work less than 40 hours per week, but they could work part- or full-time. Shifts can vary but typically start early in the morning so that you can serve customers who are on their way to work. Most coffee shops close in the late afternoon or early evening, so late shifts are typically not common. However, you may find yourself working weekends and holidays as well.
Shifts can range from four to eight hours a day, typically with a 30-minute break.
Some baristas become interested in roasting, training, managing, or operating a coffee shop or business. Baristas could be promoted to shift or store managers, leading a team of baristas through their shifts and constantly improving customer experience. You may decide to take your skills and expertise and open your coffee shop or franchise.
You could also be put in a management position where you recruit and hire other baristas, and train them through each of the skills it takes to be a good barista.
In addition to the skills listed above, many of which are desirable for several jobs, there are other transferable skills you gain from being a barista such as:
Inventory and budgeting.