For an independent coffee company, your main differentiator in the market is the quality of your coffee and your people. The high street chains can copy our shop stylings but they can’t hire our people and they can’t train them to the same standards. The bad independent coffee businesses just copy the high street chains and in the long run they can’t compete because they are offering nothing different.
What we must do is hire the very best people with the right attitude; skill is a secondary issue. Always hire based on attitude. The rest you can train for; if someone is naturally happy and friendly then the rest is fixable. Don’t think that this necessarily means paying a premium in wage price because it doesn’t. With the right brand, people will want to join you.
We have interviewed lots of people who have worked for the high street chains and I can safely say we have hired few. Just because they have experience does not make them suitable for you. The high street chains have an average turnover of staff of 13 weeks so they need to hire lots of people and often. The only way they can do this is by lowering their standards, process everything, dumb everything down, create lots of rules. If you follow this model it will lead to failure.
So the challenge for an independent is to find great staff and keep them. How do you do this if you are growing? Well you do it by hiring slowly and firing fast, having a system that evaluates staff on the job and, if they don’t meet the standard, removing them from the business straight away. It’s better to have a gap than have the wrong person in place.
We first telephone interview all staff, CVs are pretty meaningless these days. Those that sound good on the phone are invited for a trial shift. The trialist shadows the outlet manager, and if they think they are suitable they are then passed to the customer services guru for a session with them. If they pass that then they are passed to the coffee connissouer for training. Feedback is sought from all baristas who worked with the trialist and regular customers are asked their opinion. At that point they are offered a job on a 1-month trial with a weeks notice during this period.
Even despite this process a few get through the net and we have to set them free.