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How to Hire a Barista: Barista Jobs Guide

Isabelle HahnAuthor

Toast

Hire and Retain Great Restaurant Employees

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How to Hire a Barista: Barista Jobs Guide

The benefits of having great talent in your restaurant cannot be overstated. Everybody you bring on board, from chefs to servers to bartenders to baristas, plays a pivotal role in shaping customer experience. 

There are over 474, 463 baristas employed in the United States, and the career path is only growing – with a 35.4% growth in employment in this role from 2006 to 2016. 

If you want to know how to hire a barista, look no further. Here, we’ll dive into the hiring process and how to find a barista who becomes part of your restaurant or cafe’s team. 

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Hire and Retain Great Restaurant Employees

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How to Hire a Barista

Baristas work in fast-paced environments and adapt to the ebb and flow of customer traffic. Their ability to multitask, stay organized, and maintain composure is vital to a restaurant’s efficiency. 

Their role extends beyond simply brewing coffee; they enhance customer experiences, contribute to your restaurant's reputation, drive revenue growth, and maintain quality. In cafes, they are often the first point of contact for grumpy customers seeking their caffeine fix. 

The first step in hiring a barista is to analyze what you need from the position in your specific restaurant. Maybe you need additional staff due to increased demand, expansion, or staff turnover. Or maybe you’re embarking on your new cafe’s hiring process for the first time. 

Define Your Needs

When hiring a barista for a restaurant or cafe, defining your needs and expectations early helps ensure you find the right candidate for your team.

  • Schedule: Clearly define the work hours and any specific scheduling requirements. Mention if the position is part-time or full-time and if weekend or evening shifts are required. Keep in mind, that the majority (56%) of restaurant employees said they accepted their most recent restaurant job because of the flexible schedule.

  • Qualifications: If you want someone with prior experience as a barista or in a similar role, prioritize that when writing your job description. How much time do you have to train your new employee? And how much coffee knowledge should they have from the start? 

  • Salary range: What can you afford to pay a new employee? What does the tipping structure look like at your cafe? Clearly define the salary or hourly wage and any benefits.  

  • Culture: How can you build the most efficient, effective team? Consider ways to bring new perspectives and points of view into your team. Also, consider the personality traits and attitudes that would be a good fit for your culture. 

Create an Effective Barista Job Posting 

Craft a clear and detailed job description for your barista role by writing a job description that includes the following: 

  • Clear expectations about the role, your restaurant, and the work environment.

  • Clarify the job title and position (e.g., Barista - full-time). You could also try using modifiers such as “experienced barista,” “independent coffee shop barista,” or “lead barista.”

  • Outline the responsibilities of the role. Examples of this would be: 

    • Preparing and serving a variety of coffee and tea beverages.

    • Engaging with customers to take orders and provide recommendations.

    • Upholding quality control by following brewing and serving standards.

    • Maintaining a clean and calm working environment.

    • Ensuring customer satisfaction with friendly and efficient service.

    • Specify the qualifications and skills needed for the position. Examples of this would be:

    • Food safety certifications (if required in your state). 

    • Previous experience as a barista or in a similar customer service or restaurant industry role. 

    • Attention to detail. 

  • List benefits and salary range. 

  • Include restaurant culture and values. 

  • Clearly specify how candidates should apply. This usually includes submitting a resume or resume and cover letter through your website, email, or job portal. Provide contact information.

  • Include an equal opportunity statement that conveys your commitment to diversity and fairness in the hiring process.

Find more tips on writing a detailed barista job description here

Highlight Your Restaurant's Unique Selling Points

It would be a miss not to include some insight into your restaurant’s culture in your job description. It can be helpful to remember that while you’re looking for a barista, there are lots of baristas out there looking for jobs – especially one with a competitive salary that allows them to support their lifestyle and appreciate the work they do. 

Include this value statement at the beginning or end of your job description. You can follow this format: 

At [ RESTAURANT NAME ] we take pride in our commitment to delivering top-notch customer service and delighting patrons with the best coffee and pastries in the area. Our team is passionate about serving our community, and we value teamwork and communication above all else. Every month we highlight a community organization to give back to that receives the equivalent of a tip share (taken from our profits – not your tips) to prove it. 

Advertise the Bartending Job 

Once you’ve crafted your enticing barista job description, the next step is to reach the job-seeking barista masses. Here are some strategies for promoting your opening, keeping in mind that the majority of new employees (55%) found their latest jobs through connections:

Use Online Job Boards

Online job boards are usually the first go-to for any industry. Popular platforms like Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Zip Recruiter allow you to post job listings. Oftentimes, they’ll require a lot of the information you’ve already captured by writing your own job posting. 

Leverage Social Media

The second most popular way of finding restaurant jobs…you guessed it, through social media. Use your restaurant’s following to your benefit and encourage staff to share your posts as well. Utilize relevant hashtags or content boosting to target specific demographics or locations. 

Explore Industry-Specific Platforms

Websites like Poached, CoffeeJobs, and Barista Exchange are excellent resources to connect with baristas. Posting on these platforms helps reach your target audience, and may increase your chances of attracting candidates with the skillset you’re searching for. 

Encourage Employee Referrals

Think of your employees as advocates for your restaurant. Encourage them to refer potential candidates from their own networks. You can even incentivize this with an employee referral program that rewards candidates for their hired recommendations. 

Screen the Resumes

At the resume stage, you’re trying to figure out enough information to offer a candidate an interview - not the position. 

At this point, all you know is what your candidates look like on paper, and you need to develop a system to sift through your (hopefully many) options. 

Develop a Screening Criteria

When developing a resume screening criteria, consider core qualities a barista should have:

  • Customer service skills

  • Knowledge of coffee and espresso preparation

  • Attention to detail

  • Teamwork

  • Coffee bean knowledge

Any resume without these specifications should be rejected - but always make sure to let that candidate know you are no longer considering them for the role. 

Your screening criteria should also be reflective of your values and restaurant. Maybe your focus is on diversity and inclusion, and your screening criteria is implemented to avoid biases and discrimination in the hiring process.

Prioritize Relevant Experience

And if all else fails, prioritize the candidates with the most relevant experience. It could be that there is a golden candidate with little to no experience on their resume, and maybe you have the time and resources to train them. But most times, the resumes with relevant restaurant and service experience are the ones that jump out of the pile. 

Review Cover Letters and Personal Statements

If you require a cover letter or personal statement, you can review it for a candidate's overall passion for the job. Cover letters can also help assess cultural fit through tone and communication style – although it’s easier to assess these in an in-person interview.

Conduct Barista Interviews 

Next is your interview stage. At this point in the hiring process, you’ll get a better sense of your candidate’s passion, work ethic, personality, and general attitude. 

This often begins with a phone or initial screening interview that is quite general. Usually, the person hiring will start with a brief introduction of themselves, their experience at the restaurant, and why they are hiring for a barista position. They may include a description of the restaurant, and what the culture is like, before turning to the interviewee. 

In a phone screening, a barista candidate can expect questions like: 

  • Can you walk me through your relevant experience?

  • How do you ensure quality in the beverages you make?

  • Can you describe your familiarity with different brewing methods and equipment?

The person conducting the interview, or the hiring manager, may expect questions about scheduling or pay. A candidate might ask specific questions about reporting structure and performance markers. Use this time to gauge communication skills and personality. Could this person be a fit for your restaurant?

In-person or video Interviews often follow successful phone screenings. These interviews dive into the nitty-gritty and are usually the deciding factor in who gets hired. 

In this second interview, there are different types of questions you can ask to figure out your best candidate: 

Behavioral Questions

  • Describe a situation where you had to handle a long line of customers during a rush. How did you manage the situation, and what was the result?

  • Can you share a time you went above and beyond to create a memorable experience for a customer?

  • Have you ever had a conflict with a coworker or manager, and how did you address it?

  • Can you share a situation where you received a customer complaint? How did you address the issue?

When asking behavioral questions, listen for specific examples and outcomes in the candidate’s responses. 

Skills Assessment 

  • Can you walk me through the process of making a double shot of espresso? 

  • What are the critical factors to achieving perfect microfoam?

  • How do you make a batch of drip coffee using a pour-over method? What’s the ideal coffee-to-water ratio, and how do you maintain the temperature throughout the process?

  • I’m a customer who doesn’t know much about coffee and wants a recommendation. How would you guide me? 

  • How do you efficiently manage your time and prioritize tasks?

Skills assessment questions help evaluate a candidate’s practical abilities. These questions can be used in tandem with a practical demonstration or hands-on test to evaluate performance. 

Cultural Fit 

  • What do you know about our cafe? 

  • Tell us about a time you had to collaborate with team members.

  • Can you share a situation where you took the initiative to improve a process or procedure?

  • Describe your ideal work environment.

Remember to ask follow-up questions based on a candidate’s responses to gain a deeper understanding. Additionally, assess their enthusiasm, attitude, and cultural fit with your cafe throughout.

Review References and Background Checks

After your interviews, you have some calls to make. It’s essential for candidates to have a strong work history with positive professional relationships and connections. Let candidates know in the interview process that you may contact past employers as a part of a comprehensive evaluation process. 

Contacting Past Employers

When contacting past employers, focus on gathering information about the candidate’s job performance, reliability, punctuality, teamwork, and adherence to company policies. 

Criminal Background Checks

Your business is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for customers and employees. Criminal background checks also have to do with local laws and compliance. 

As with contacting past employers, you must inform your candidate before conducting a background check. 

Verification of Qualifications

Not only does your cafe need passionate baristas, but you also need people with the qualifications necessary to excel. This includes education, barista training, and professional licenses. 

Make the Offer

Congratulations, you’ve found a barista you want to make an official offer to.  Communicate the terms of their employment clearly and professionally, and let them know how excited you are to have them on the team. 

Provide a Written Offer Letter

Contact your candidate and extend an official offer in writing. Provide all the essential details, including job title, compensation, work schedule, start date, and location.

Set Expectations for Start Date and Onboarding

On a new employee’s first day, you should go over your employee agreement contract and any specific terms or policies employees need to follow. 

With onboarding, two weeks or more of training is the sweet spot for successful staff sentiment — though nearly three-quarters of restaurant staff (74%) receive two weeks or less of training and onboarding. 

Included in your onboarding should be orientation, training on equipment and processes, and an introduction to the team.

Retaining and Developing Star Baristas

Keeping your new barista around is the true success of hiring a new restaurant employee. Retaining employees has a significant impact on your success. 

For one, employee turnover is expensive. When you retain a new barista, you save on the costs associated with recruiting, hiring, and training replacements. 

Experienced baristas who stay with your restaurant become more proficient in their roles over time. This leads to a higher level of consistency and quality in coffee and food preparation, resulting in more satisfied customers. 

To help with retention, operators may consider common pain points of current restaurant employees and how they can overcome those to grow retention. For example, poor hourly pay (47%), not being recognized for hard work (44%), and bad managers (37%) are the top pain points listed by restaurant employees. 

Great ways to reinforce retention are to recognize and reward outstanding performance, offer opportunities for skill development, and encourage career growth within your cafe or restaurant.

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The key steps in hiring the perfect barista are:

  • Define who your perfect barista is. What problems can they solve? What are their hours, and their pay? How do they fit in with your existing restaurant culture?

  • Write a job description with those values in mind. Remember to include the basics, such as location, position, and type of job. 

  • Share your barista job description on job boards, social media, and industry-specific platforms. You should also share it with your employees, who might have a great referral within their own connections. 

  • Screen resumes of potential candidates after creating a list of screening criteria. Reiterate who you’re looking for and who has the qualifications to fit your needs best. Choose a handful for the next step in the process.

  • Conduct phone screens and interviews with a few qualified candidates. Ask all sorts of questions that cover skills, behavior, and culture fit. 

  • Review other application materials such as cover letters, personal statements, and recommendations. Call your candidates’ references if they have any. 

  • Make an offer on your top candidate.

  • Begin the onboarding process with retention and training top of mind. 

With the right preparation, you can hire a barista that enhances your cafe or restaurant operations and atmosphere.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.