July 19, 2017

How to Keep Your Best Baristas From Quitting


It isn’t your delicious coffee that makes your coffee shop successful. Nor is it your perfect location that pulls in all the thirsty customers. It’s not even the carefully curated design that results in that great vibe: welcoming, trendy, cool, artsy…

It’s your baristas.

They’re the ones who turn up every day and make your customers feel at home. They manage the crises, cover shifts for sick coworkers, and deal with the long queues. They create the customer relationships that keep people returning.

It’s in your coffee shop’s best interests to keep your staff from quitting. Here are some important tips for reducing barista turnover.

Spanish Version: Cómo Hacer Para que Tus Baristas no Renuncien


A barista brews coffee with a V60.

Know That Everybody Is Different

Every single one of your baristas has a different personality and different values – and this means they’ll be motivated by different things.

Numerous studies have shown that there are a diverse range of employee motivations: a sense of belonging, relationships with managers and other team members, respect for management, purpose, achievable targets, career progression, the feeling of being good at a job, public acknowledgement of success, private acknowledgement, salary, flexibility, time off, good benefits…

That is by no means a full list, nor is it in any particular order. What’s more, for most people, their motivation usually comes from a combination of these factors.

One thing is certain, however: every employee needs something to motivate them to stay in a job. And if you want to keep your baristas, you’ll make sure that you’re aware of what personally drives them and how you can provide that.

Encourage your employees to be honest about their motivations and how they’re currently feeling. Which brings me onto my next point…


Baristas at work. Credit: Ana Valencia

Listen to Your Baristas’ Feedback

It’s not easy for your baristas to tell you that you’re having problems. Some managers can react badly, snapping at the staff, choosing not to promote them, or even deciding not to renew their contract. What’s more, women and minority groups are often more hesitant to discuss issues with management.

This means it’s your job to create space for feedback, listen to it, and respond fairly.

Take the time to ask your baristas how they are doing on a regular basis – at least once a fortnight. Talk to them away from the rest of the team. Find out how they are feeling about work, if they have any problems, and what their current aims are.

Next, when a barista tells you about a problem, thank them for letting you know. You might not be able to solve the issue, but by showing that you’re open to this feedback, you increase your staff’s loyalty and motivation.

Sometimes, a problem will be easy to fix; other times, it will be more difficult. Make sure you ask lots of questions so you can address the root cause of the issue.

If you can’t provide a solution, but your barista’s request is reasonable, acknowledge the issue, explain why you can’t solve it, and look for compromises. For example, you might say, “I know you’ve been working a lot of overtime this month, more so than any other team member. However, we’re short-staffed and you’re the most experienced person on the team. Would it help if I gave you an extra day of paid holiday to be taken when we’re back to full staff?”

On the other hand, if the request isn’t reasonable, make sure your barista understands why.


A barista pours milk into a drink to-go. Credit: Peixoto Coffee Roasters

Pay Attention to Interpersonal Relationships

There’s a saying that people don’t quit managers, not jobs. This is true, but there’s also a little more to the story: they also quit teams.

You won’t necessarily click with all your baristas, but you should be friendly with them. Try to build relationships even with the staff members you have little in common with. Avoid showing favouritism.

Know that, just like how every barista will have different motivations, they will also have a different way of interacting and learning at work. Make sure you understand all of your baristas’ work styles, communication styles, and preferred feedback styles, and then meet them in the middle.

Some people, for example, might prefer to master one new skill at a time while others are comfortable taking on many of them. Some people might be motivated by high-pressure situations while others are stressed out by them. Your baristas will perform better if you work with their personalities, rather than against them.

Finally, but equally importantly, create a good work atmosphere. Build teamwork into the feedback system. Assign mentors for new staff members. Organise work events, even if it’s just drinks at the weekend. 

A 2013 Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) of 1,000 people found that over 40% were motivated by the relationship with their colleagues. You want your staff to be having fun rather than being stressed out by each other.


A team of baristas. Credit: Methodical Coffee

SEE ALSO: How to Spot a Leader: Growing Baristas into Managers

Show Appreciation

If a barista feels underappreciated, they will start to feel resentment – and soon after, they’ll look for a different boss.

There are many ways to show your staff how much you appreciate them, and as I said above, some people will prefer different methods. The 2013 ILM study, for example, found that only 13% of people would consider a bonus motivating, while 31% said “better treatment from their employer”, “more praise”, and “a greater sense of being valued” would. Never underestimate the power of a simple “thank you”.

Show appreciation regularly. Sound sincere. And make sure that your praise means something. Don’t congratulate someone for something they found easy and let the challenges slide by unnoticed.

Another point worth mentioning is extra responsibility. For some people, this can signal appreciation. But unless you make it clear that this responsibility has been earned, it might feel like you’re taking your hardest-working, most talented baristas for granted. Show that it’s linked to your trust in them. And, if you’re giving a staff member more and more challenging tasks, ensure that sooner or later a pay rise or promotion comes too.


A barista at work at the espresso machine. Credit: The Little Black Cup

Offer Opportunities For Career Development

It’s important to understand your baristas’ career goals and how you can help them achieve them. Even if baristas feel appreciated, love the team, and have plenty of motivation, a lack of development opportunities can leave them scrolling through job listings.

Offer opportunities for training, whether it relates to latte art, management skills, or food preparation and menu design. Listen to what your baristas want and how you can offer it to them. Understand, as well, that different people learn in different ways. One barista may wish to take a formal course; another might prefer 30 minutes of one-on-one training from you or another team leader.

Make sure you know your baristas’ long-term career goals. You might be preparing a barista for a team management position when, actually, they would like to move into roasting coffee. While you’re offering them career development, it’s not the development they want.

You won’t always be able to provide staff with the career development they want, of course. In these situations, you should try to offer as many related opportunities as you can. You must also understand, however, that eventually that staff member will likely look for another job.


A coffee cupping training session for baristas. Credit: Monogram Coffee

High barista turnover can be a nightmare for any coffee shop. It results in lower customer satisfaction and a higher investment from you in terms of hiring and training new staff.

Yet if you take the time to understand what your employees want, listen to their issues, create a good work environment, and show that you appreciate them, you’ll find that more of your baristas want to stay.

Perfect Daily Grind

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