Employing the right people is paramount to the success of your business. And yet, one of the most common and undisputed difficulties of the coffee world is staffing. 

You may have the perfect location, superb equipment, a cracking menu, the best coffee in town and yet it's critical to focus on getting the right staff to ensure the ultimate success for your business. 

Finding and keeping the perfect crew can be tough, so we've created this guide to outline a few tips to assist you in staffing for success. 

Please note all information in this piece is general; consider the needs of your specific business and seek professional guidance when applicable. 

Hiring Staff

It may sound obvious, but to staff your business for success, you need to hire great people from the very beginning. First you need to identify what you and your business need, essentially the nuts and bolts required to build your business. How many hours are you hoping to fill? What will you need the successful applicant to be responsible for? Is the position part-time or casual? What do you need your staff to deliver? This may seem like a lot of questions; however it's helpful for you and everyone else involved if you have clear expectations of the job and what it entails from the get-go. 

Once you have your conditions and job description set, you need to advertise. There are many places to spread the word and find the most suitable person: 

  • Your social media accounts
  • A physical sign on your front door
  • Seek and other professional online job pages
  • Barista Facebook groups, Gumtree and other local forums 
  • Ask your suppliers: they may have resources for you to access

Another great option is word of mouth; depending on the job role, you may be able to ask your regular and engaged customers if they need a new job or know of someone looking for work. Finding staff through your regulars can be brilliant; chances are they support your business because they already love it and what you do! 

My personal favourite on where to find staff, however, is through my best staff. If your floor staff love working with your regulars and are eager to learn more about dialling in the grinder, why not consider moving them behind the espresso machine during off-peak periods? Learning other roles within a team has so many benefits, and you already know they have the right learning attitude. When you fill skill gaps or move team members sideways like this, your business and customers can benefit from the knowledge already on hand and the trust already earned. 

As well as looking in-house, we are hard-wired to seek like-minded people to hang out with. So, this means your highly reliable and enthusiastic dishie may know of a friend who is also highly reliable, enthusiastic, and looking for a new workplace. This can be pesky when they all have the same wine tour to go on a weekend, however I think it's still worth it! 

Keep in mind that while asking for like-minded souls, you should also look to add diversity to your crew. Hiring people with different perspectives and experiences can really strengthen your business and is invaluable in offering hospitality to an equally diverse customer base. 

How to increase your reach

What if you send out your job advert and nothing happens? No response, no applicants. This can be such a disheartening result, we get it. 

If this is the case, you need to look at the underlying cause and try to discover why you are not receiving applicants. 

Consider the following:  

  • The format of your job ad; is it eye catching and interesting? Is your ad approachable?  
  • The title displayed on your advertisement; is it clear enough to show up in job searches? 
  • Do you need to be more specific about the information on offer? Consider outlining hours or salary packages and even including the business address.  
  • How appropriate are the platforms you are advertising on? Is there another avenue that would broaden your reach?  
  • Are you inadvertently using bias language or posting job requirements in a way which discourages a diverse range of applicants? To widen your ads prospects, use gender-neutral and inclusive language and get someone else to proof-read your post. List only your mandatory qualifications for the role as studies show women typically only apply for job roles if they meet 100% of the criteria, so you are losing out on potential employees by over listing unnecessary skill requirements. 
  • Try adding something unique and creative to your post to stand out. Let the personality of your business shine through via pictures (social media posts) or job descriptions, for example ‘Experienced Barista needed for busy neighborhood coffee shop; if you love making coffee whilst dancing to awesome tunes and working with a great team, apply for this job!’

Click here for some great advice on this subject by Seek: https://www.seek.com.au/employer/hiring-advice/are-candidates-seeing-your-job-ad-make-these-changes 

Setting Expectations

While there are a few steps and thought processes needed to advertise well, it can be the easiest part of staff seeking. You post your job, and wait for all the cover letters and resumes to come flooding in.  

It is all the steps afterwards that are important to invest time and patience in to. Here are some tips to help you prepare: 

  • Make sure your advertisement is clear on what you need, and the communications applicants can expect (i.e., at what stage they will be contacted if they successfully progress through the process). 
  • Be prepared for any interviews you may have with potential applicants; what questions will give you the greatest insight into their suitability? 
  • Actually read resumes, cover letters and check references (please, check references!). You can tell a lot from someone by their resume. Are they highly transitional with lots of jobs for short periods? What care have they taken in customising their cover letter to your job editorial – did they read it and explore your business?  
  • If you require a job trial, check in with your local laws on your requirements and obligations.  Most states allow a brief period for the applicant to perform parts of the job to show cases their skills. Applicants entering these trials are professionals and should always be treated with respect. You can read more information about job trials here: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/starting-employment/unpaid-work/unpaid-trials 
  • Know what your hiring rates and award rates are. The best thing to do to make sure you are hiring under the right award is to check: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employment-conditions/awards 
  • Set up some orientation guides or induction content. Equipping your staff  with the correct background information and some guidelines is essentially setting them up for success from the get- go. You don’t give someone a snowboard and drop them at the top of the mountain without the adequate gear, training, and a map on how to get down, right?  
  • Clearly outline the job specifications, what can they expect to do on a shift by shift basis? What do you require them to accomplish? What does success look like? 

 Try to avoid panic hiring 

Those of us who have worked in hospitality know this feeling! This occurs when you’re desperate to fill a shift and someone is free, but they’re not aligned with you or your business. You need someone NOW, so do you want to offer them the job?  

In this case, you really need to consider the risks: is hiring someone you already know will not be a long termer going to harm your business? One person can destroy the trust of your regulars, and even damage the culture established within your staff.  

From our experience it’s rare to achieve success with short term hires, they will just drag you and what you want to achieve down.  

Maintaining cherished staff

So, you’ve hired some excellent crew and you want to maintain this team. But how do you entice staff to stay with your business?  

“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative enjoyment.” Franklin D Roosevelt 

Have you ever researched what people value the most in a job? You would most probably guess monetary compensation right? 

Wrong. I mean, everyone appreciates being paid appropriately, however, there are other factors which create happiness in the workplace. Multiple studies have shown key motivators are: 

  1. Growth and development 
  2. Flexibility 
  3. Recognition  
  4. Company culture  
  5. Perks 

These factors seem pretty simple right? And they are! By building some good foundations for your business and your staff, you’ll be setting yourself up for streamlined success. Let’s break them down:  

  1. Growth and development may initially seem limited in some job roles; however, it doesn’t have to be. Implementing a staff development program is a perfect time to ask your staff what their areas of interest are, and what goals your business can support them to achieve. When your staff are engaged in this way, they feel more ownership and will be more alert and present in your business. 

You can also tap into your suppliers to discover what initiatives they have for training and knowledge sharing. At Five Senses Coffee we offer unlimited training for baristas for our cafes, and our account managers often also help to strategise development opportunities.  



After you have implemented training systems or programs, ensure you measure and monitor the progress of them, including touching base with your staff about their experience. This is not a set-and-forget kind of approach; regular check-ins will help build continuity and keep these programs front of mind for both you and your staff. 

2. Flexibility may seem more applicable to a 9-5 desk job; however, it can certainly apply to coffee jobs.  

How set in stone is your roster start time? Can 0700 start be shifted to 0710 to allow for the bus route? Do you offer changes in the roster as needed so your staff member can attend their Mother’s 60th Party? Do you give your staff strict guidelines on dress code or offer them something more relaxed?  

Flexibility can also mean allowing for a certain level of variety of tasks and responsibilities, providing opportunities to offer fresh energy on daily duties. 

3. Recognition for work achieved is a huge element of happiness in the workplace, and not to be underestimated. There is a reason that Words of Affirmation is one of the love languages: people love to be valued and recognised. Consider the best way to tell or show someone you value them and recognise all the challenging work they do. 

4. You need to be clear on what your café culture is all about. Have strong goals and objectives about this that your staff can follow. What do you value within your business that you want to resonate through to your staff? How can you build these values and encourage your café culture? If you value punctuality and great service then you wouldn’t expect someone who is always late and abrupt with your customers to be a good fit.  

The Sustainable Coffee Institutes newsletters they breakdown Café Culture in many of them, and even offer courses about this. https://www.sci.coffee/ 

5. What perks can you offer to your staff? Do you offer a meal with a full shift, or a discount across the menu? Do staff have access to unlimited coffee or just one at the start of the shift? How about an Employee Assistance Program? People should enjoy their work, and there are many different benefits you can include that will contribute to staff happiness. Things like mental health days, group outings or extra-curricular activities (e.g., staff end of year parties) can all build your team bond and add to their overall happiness and well-being.  

In addition to time spent considering the above staff engagements, developing your systems is a great investment. Creating systems and policies may seem time consuming, but clearly defining what someone needs to do in any given scenario can give a great amount of support and structure to them and ensure you get the results your business needs.  

Managing a staffed café is never going to be easy, people have personalities, ideas and opinions. These are not negatives, it’s great to get different perspectives. Systems and policies will help guide your staff in what they’re aiming for and ensure a smoother team dynamic.  

The systems can be in place for many different things, from how you prepare your iced lattes and long blacks to how you can upsell that piece of banana bread or a larger coffee or to how you close the café. If everyone knows these and holds each other accountable, then you will avoid conflict about it. 

Personal Development

Staffing your business for success starts at the very core of the business. Meaning you, the owner. It may be enough to offer your staff the chances to be happy at work, or further their professional development however what about you? The key stakeholder of the business.  

There’s a saying, ‘charity begins at home’ – and it can very much apply to the success of your business. Set the example you wish to foster in your business, and lead by it.  

Consider your people management skills: is there a course that could help you improve them? You may find that people respond differently to different managerial styles, and adapting your style may help get a better result for everyone. You cannot expect your staff to be successful within your business if they are not effectively supported.  

What Human Resources materials do you have access to in assisting you and your staff to keep communications open? 

There are some great managerial courses, articles, podcasts and books available. I would highly recommend the book written by Colin Harmon, “What I know About Running Coffee Shops” (link to buy) that’s packed with tips and examples from an experienced operator.  


Newtons Third Law: 

For every action there is an equal or opposite reaction.  

The people you entrust the growth or profitability of your business with matter, you should know it and they should know it. Your Business success is going to depend on many actions, and you won’t be able to carry them all out so inevitably you need to rely on your staff. 

Successfully staffing your business may not happen overnight, it most likely will be more of a progression of carefully considered decisions, preparation and consistent attention. Here is a quick recap of what we discussed: 

  1. Ensure you hire the right person from the get-go – advertise clearly and be prepared for interviews. 
  2. Set clear expectations and outlines for your staff – know your business needs and communicate them. 
  3. Engage your staff through personal growth and development – engaged staff are worth their weight in gold. 
  4. Recognise and acknowledge hard work – it’s the language many of us need to recharge. 
  5. Put continual effort into improving the workplace and your management of it – don't rest on your laurels. 

From our experience working in and amongst hundreds of cafes, these points may be the key difference between a successful café and an unsuccessful one. These steps can help build a positive workplace where everyone picks up on the vibes and is part of creating a happy space. And when we’re talking hospitality, good vibes and happy spaces are what they’re built on (plus delicious coffee!). 

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