In my hometown here in Washington State, I work for a local coffee shop business called Roasters. We have six locations spread throughout the Tri-Cities and three more coming this year. The business is quickly turning into a franchise because of how fast-growing and popular it is, and I'm in the middle of it - I'm a barista!
Being a barista is a lot different and more complex than you might think. When they prepare a Big Mac at McDonalds, they grill the burger, dress the buns, layer the tomatoes, lettuce, etc., then serve it in a nice box with some fries and a drink. At a coffee shop, besides the usual selection of pastries, all we do is serve coffee. Simple, right? Not. My job as a barista has arguably been the most complex job I've had thus far, but for all the right reasons. There's so much that goes into preparing the perfect cup of coffee that sometimes I think our customers take it for granted most of the time. I'm not stating this as a bad thing, just that I think they don't realize what all happens to create that delicious cup of joe they take to work or school every morning.
Along with creating a drink comes a whole new experience of customer service. When you pull up through a fast food drive-thru, what happens? Usually, it will go somewhat like this: You pull up to the speaker, say what you want, drive to the first window, pay, drive to the second window, have little to none customer-to-employee interaction, grab your food, then drive off. In the coffee industry, us baristas make it a must to interact with our customers and do everything and anything we can to make their day and make an impact on their daily lives. This is what I love about my job - the idea of being able to go into work every day and have the opportunity to put smiles on people’s faces. As a barista, my job isn't just to make coffee... it's to help build a community through coffee and imprint a positive vibe upon it.
At Roasters, we have a policy that I believe all coffee shops and fast-service restaurants should inherit. We call it the, “Open Window” policy. When a customer drives up in our drive-thru or walks inside and orders, the first thing we do is NOT get your order, but rather say hi and ask how your day is going. Then we get your order. See, in the “fast-food” industry, the main goal is to get the order and get it out as fast as possible, leaving little to no room for customer-to-employee interaction. This disallows for any connection to be made or relationship to be established. This is why I love being a barista. The idea of being able to go to work every day and have the opportunity to make someone’s day by just talking to them while making them coffee, is so awesome and makes me feel humble inside.
This brings me to my last note about what it’s like being a barista and why I love it so much. Coffee builds communities. I love nothing more than being on bar and seeing a regular or making a new friend through the window. Every business has its “regulars,” but only for one reason: They buy their product, and usually the same product every time. In the coffee industry, our regulars are our friends. Personally, I not only know a dozen or more regular’s drinks by heart, I know their families, their dogs’ and cats’ names, and where they work or go to school. You might think, “Well, that’s a little creepy.” To some people, yes, but think of it this way: You as the customer invest your time and money in getting coffee from us every day or every two days, so it’s only fair that we invest our time and our knowledge in getting to know you better and making your two-minute experience even better. Instead of leaving with your coffee made by strangers and an elephant in your car, you leave with coffee made by friends and a smile upon your face.
In these troubled times, I think the world needs more uplifting vibes and happy energy. As a barista, I believe I help make that happen every single day. For every single customer, not just my regulars, my ultimate goal is to not only make them the most delicious coffee they’ve ever tasted, but most importantly, to make them smile and think good of themselves. That’s what it’s like being a barista for me, and that’s what it should be like for you, the customer. So go ahead and get some coffee or tea, and smile!