Owning a café can be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. But as you know, it’s not short of challenges, especially when it comes to hiring and managing staff. At the end of the day, the hospitality industry is about connecting with people, so it is important to employ the kind of staff who share your vision and can help build the business you’ve been dreaming of.

Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to step up your recruiting game

1. Create a talented pool of people

It would be nice if a talent pool was literally a swimming pool you could visit to fish out all the top talent, but in reality, it’s a much tougher task to cultivate a group of great employees and candidates, especially in the hospitality sector.

Research found that 82% of hospitality employers said it was harder than at any time in the past to recruit suitable staff, with a staggering 93% of respondents saying they found it very difficult.

So, how can you build this talent pool for your coffee shop given the constraints in the sector?

First off, try to avoid recruiting anyone just because they’re willing to wash dishes and clear tables – start by understanding the profile of the people you want in your business. Work out what their qualities and personality traits are. Look out for friendly people with a can-do attitude who can build rapport with your customers, and focus less on previous experience.

The concept of enlightened hospitality suggests it’s actually best to hire people with the “right” attitude and emotional skill set than to look out for relevant experience. Barista skills can be taught to someone with a great attitude, but not the other way around!

Don’t be afraid to try this out with the staff currently working at your café, and weed out those who do not fit your ideal profile. It might be hard at the beginning, but it will save you from banging your head against a wall and investing time in training someone who simply won’t work out.


2. Interview like a boss

Now that you have a clearer picture of what your best-performing people look like, you are ready to start the hunt for great staff. But before you embark on this daunting process, you should think beyond the standard checking-off-boxes interviewing approach.

One way you can do this is by refining your interview skills and learning to read body language This will help you spot those subtle details that act as a red flag.

In the interview, you need to mentally position the candidate in the key areas of your café, like the kitchen or till. By keeping a close eye on how they behave and speak in front of you, you can get a sense of whether their personality would fit into your environment.

A final tip to save you lots of time and energy – be ruthless when interviewing. If you realise that the person sitting in front of you is a definite no-no, end the interview quickly. Always be polite and thank them for their time, but make sure you only invest time in those candidates with real potential.

3. Build an induction process for new staff

Big coffee chains have mastered the process of creating proper induction sessions and regular training for new staff, this is often overlooked by independent establishments.

Gallup found that 87% of millennial say training and development are crucial to a job. Giving your new staff opportunities to grow with regular training can increase motivation and retention.

A good induction is less about coffee knowledge and more about ensuring your new staff understand the business. Get them proactively participating in this process and it will demonstrate what kind of motivation and energy you expect from them.

Creating your own coffee shop handbook is a great way to start. For instance, this handbook can include your story, values, main rules, health and safety training, attendance policy and even general coffee knowledge and history.

Give a copy to each staff member on their first day. And remember that for an induction to work, it must be interesting, fun and with lots of hands-on training that tests them.

Top tips and takeaways

1. Create a great working environment for your staff to flourish in.

2. When hiring, focus on attitude and emotional skill set rather than experience. It’s very important that your staff is able to build rapport with customers and especially with your regulars.

3. Do follow-ups and regular training after their induction, so that everything sticks.

4. Do pay them for training. It can increase the attendance rate and engagement in your sessions.

5. If you require specific coffee training for your staff, you can visit the IEB website for lots of resources and training courses.