Friday, November 1, 2013

Welcome to Baristaville



©2013 by LeeZard

Sometimes the solution to a problem is right in front of you and you still can’t find it. Thus it was for me.
If you followed my recent summer journey across America, you know of my loyalty to Starbucks. Not only does Howard Schultz’s empire serve as my office nationwide – with its free WiFi and stay-as-long-as-you-want policy – I just love the coffee. I’ve been a customer since 1974. That’s B.H., Before Howard.
While I was on the road I did a lot of thinking; that’s one of the major bennies of a road trip, enjoying the time with yourself and using it productively. I decided I needed to do something to drag myself out of the dreaded SWS (Starving Writer Syndrome), something not related to either writing or my other career skills.
This was cathartic; I realized that I’d let me ego keep me down. Ever since my position at Safeco Insurance disappeared in January 2008 I’d devoted my job search and then my entrepreneurial experiment(s) to the things that always brought the bacon home: media, public relations and marketing. Why not? These were all areas in which I had long experience and considerable skills. Yet, the bacon eluded me. In the job hunt I kept running into the term “over qualified” which is the legal way of saying “too old.”
With my ego blocking the way, I never considered taking a lesser position outside of my now defunct career track to augment my barely survivable social security benefit. Somewhere between Fredonia, NY and Grand Rapids, SD my ego fell by the roadside. I knew when I returned home I would look for a lower wage job to make things financially better. And, I knew I would only apply with one company, Starbucks. Duh!
So, here I am, a little more than one month after my return, sitting in my Starbucks store writing this piece. I’ve just completed my first two days of barista training and it feels like I’ve been here forever. That’s not to say it’s easy. Au contraire, my friend; even though it is a minimum wage (plus tips) position, there is a mountain of information and a potential for great stress to absorb.

Frankly, I was a bit intimidated about learning the drinks. Starbucks is committed to making the perfect drink for everyone, no matter how the customer might add, twist, subtract or blow up the original recipe. In two training days this baby barista was bombarded with:

  • ·       The Starbucks culture and history
  • ·       How to be a good partner (partner not employee)
  • ·       How to get a food service worker’s card
  • ·       How to maintain store cleanliness and operation
  • ·       Number of shots per cup size
  • ·       Number of syrup pumps per drink and cup size
  • ·       Number of flavor and/or protein scoops per drink and cup size
  • ·       How to make a variety of blended drinks
  • ·       How to correctly brew just plain coffee
  • ·       How to make that special Starbucks hot chocolate
  • ·       How to make a variety of tea drinks
  • ·       How to operate the complex screen on the cash till
    •   while taking orders
    • and writing the correct codes on the cup
    • after you learn all the correct codes
  • And various other duties as assigned.
It is both daunting and challenging yet, by the end of my first day I was providing store support, a rotation of duties that includes keeping the fresh brewed coffee fresh brewed, replenishing supplies, cups, lids, sleeves et al, cleaning the lobby and the bathrooms and other duties as assigned.
On my second day I began practicing drink prep on a spare machine and, ultimately, taking orders at one of the tills. Thankfully, my excellent trainer was always beside me with both correction and encouragement. I was surprised to learn that making the drinks is easier than thinking about making the drinks. Other baristas I’ve queried told me it took them two-to-three months to master the basic recipes, a bit longer for the grande half-caf soy 180 degree 13 pump peppermint mocha with extra whipped cream drinks and their ilk.
I also met my first in-store anti-Semite, a regular patron at this location, who put my customer service skills to the extreme test. I think it was his comment that, “The Jews run all the news and entertainment media,” that tipped me off. My restraint was admirable to say the least.
All-in-all, though, the hours have flown by. My fellow partners – 30-to-40 years my junior – are welcoming and helpful and I feel at home in Baristaville.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Starbucks patrons have NO idea how much training it takes to be a good barista! My daughter worked at Starbucks a couple of summers in high school, and I was very impressed with the training they required and support materials they provided. I also realized I'd NEVER be able to remember all those recipes--so good on ya, left Rev! and I know what you mean about Starbucks and road trips...though I like their tea better than the coffee!
--Jude