Barista Job Description
Looking for a career that combines your strong customer service skills with your love of espresso? Wake up and smell the coffee – you could be a successful barista. Baristas spend their days whipping up various espresso-based drinks per customer request in coffee shops, restaurants, or even bookstores. Baristas often work in fast-paced environments, so it’s best to be a quick-thinking multitasker who can handle stress and interact with sometimes unruly or demanding customers. If you’re the artistic type, even better: some shops might ask baristas to use cream or frothed milk to make attractive designs on a drink’s surface before it’s served. Some baristas are employed on a part-time basis.
Barista Duties and Responsibilities
No matter what environment they work in, all baristas generally fulfill the same core responsibilities. The following duties are among those most commonly described for baristas:
Take Drink Orders from Customers
Baristas are typically responsible for handling the customers at the counter and taking down their orders. They explain menu items and drink selections and ensure that the line moves quickly and that customers’ expectations are met.
Prepare Specific Orders
Baristas follow steps and procedures to create specified drinks ordered by customers. This includes proper espresso dosing and distribution as called for in drink recipes. Baristas also serve baked goods upon customer request.
Operate Espresso Machines and Other Equipment
From espresso machines to milk frothers, baristas must have the ability to operate necessary equipment to mix coffee drinks. They use coffee scoops, spoons, and other utensils, and also apply their artistic abilities in creating latte art using cream and milk to ensure a unique presentation of espressos and coffees.
Maintain Inventory and Stock Supplies
It typically falls to baristas to make sure that all of the supplies needed to make drinks are on hand at all times to meet the daily demands of their work environment. They maintain an inventory log and place orders with vendors as needed.
Keep Counter Area Clean
Wiping down counters and equipment, keeping preparation utensils in order, and sweeping and mopping behind the counter are tasks that baristas might perform several times during their workday. They also follow food safety and sanitation guidelines while preparing and serving drinks and food items.
Barista Skills and Qualifications
Baristas are typically outgoing, service-oriented people who enjoy working in the food and beverage industry. The following skills are important and sought after by employers seeking to fill barista positions:
- Mechanical skills - baristas must be well-schooled in the use of grinders, espresso machines, and other tools necessary to make coffee and espresso drinks
- Artistic skills – the ability to produce images and designs on the surface of espresso drinks is a unique aspect of being a barista, and those successful in this field are usually able to apply their artistic skills to this work
- Customer service – putting customer satisfaction first is a big part of being a barista; these professionals strive to make every customer’s experience enjoyable
- Communication skills – talking to customers and other employees and listening closely to ensure that you’re getting customers’ orders down correctly are crucial to being a barista
- Detail-oriented – baristas who pay attention to details, such as following drink recipes and fulfilling customer orders exactly as customers request, usually excel in this field
- Team player – baristas play just one role in a coffee shop or restaurant, so the ability to work closely with other servers, food preparers, and managers is an important quality
- Multitasking – it’s not uncommon for baristas to prepare more than one drink at a time while also fulfilling food orders and running a cash register, so multitasking is key for those in this profession
Barista Education and Training
There are no formal education requirements outside of a high school diploma to seek a job as a barista. This occupation most commonly involves on-the-job training, as techniques and roles might vary from one employer to another.
Barista Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that a barista in the U.S. earns a median annual salary of $19,970. In the lowest 10th percentile, this salary could be $17,230, while those in the 90th percentile could realize a salary of $28,010. Baristas working for specialty food services can earn an annual mean wage of $22,230, and those in restaurants can earn $20,480.
High earners in this field are typically found in the northeastern and western parts of the U.S. The District of Columbia ($28,090), California ($25,760), and Nevada ($25,010) lead the nation in mean annual wages for those in this or similar professions. Benefits, bonuses, and paid time off vary from employer to employer and could be based on full- or part-time status and longevity.
The overall job growth rate for all food and beverage serving workers is expected to be 14 percent through 2026, the BLS reports. The continued trend of dining out and the opening of more restaurants and food service facilities are expected to contribute to this growth. Servers working in coffee shops should see a 5 percent growth rate, the BLS further states. There are currently more than 500,000 individuals employed as baristas, counter attendants, food concession workers, and cafeteria workers in the U.S.
Barista Helpful Resources
Before you start pouring espresso drinks, you might want to pore over these resources to learn more about this occupation. The following links give a better idea of what’s involved in working as a barista:
Barista Guild of America – Share recipes and coffee preparation practices, network with other baristas, take training courses, attend a barista camp, and just interact with other coffee professionals. Founded in 2003, this organization has everything a barista would want to learn more and be the best they can be in their chosen field.
Specialty Coffee Association – Want to take a field trip to a coffee bean plantation? Attend a summit with other baristas and coffee professionals? Build your skills through a training program? SCA offers all of this and more to members of its organization.
The Professional Barista’s Handbook: An Expert Guide to Preparing Espresso, Coffee, and Tea – Want to learn more about brewing styles? Espresso recipes? Coffee preparation? Let this coffee business pro answer all your questions about being a successful barista.
Roasters Guild – Since 2000, this guild has been providing baristas, roasters, and others in the field with summits, forums, training events, and other activities for networking and career growth purposes.
Barista Life Blog – From big issues like customer service to minute things like getting your shift covered, this blog gives you real insight into the major and minor issues facing a barista throughout their workday.
Barista Hustle Blog – Baristas will find detailed blogs about trends, recipes, brewing styles, and so much more.
The Curious Barista’s Guide to Coffee – Take some history with you when you begin your career as a barista. Review the origins of coffee and secrets of how to roast coffee beans to perfection. This book is also filled with recipes you’ll want to try your hand at when you’re a professional in this field.
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