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Should You Support THAT Coffee Shop? How To Spot A Toxic Business.

Oh damn, I'm going there.

In my time of working in the coffee industry, I've come across some - to put it bluntly - meanies. Without naming names, there's been some owners/managers of shops who have found it fun to mentally and emotionally (even physically) push their employees past their limits - making the place miserable.

Now this isn't a naming and shaming post, and I'm not going to say who they are. To be honest, I doubt those guys will even be reading this blog, as that really doesn't feel like something they'd be interested in in the first place. These people are the toxic owners of the coffee industry.

So this is a quick little piece, discussing the key points of a toxic owner, how you can distinguish these, and why you should not support this coffee shop. As said before, I'm not going to name and shame anyone as I don't enjoy doing that on this blog, but I really hope people will take this away and continue to support the good guys in the coffee industry, rather than the badd'uns.

*note, the baristas featured are all very happy baristas, thank you very much. No sad baristas here.


1. They shame their employees - in front of the customers.

Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man.

Not only is this bad for the employee, as it's a way of embarassing them in front of their regular customers, but it's also detrimental for the employer themselves. These toxic guys will take out their frustration and emotions out on an employee, who quite frankly, probably hasn't done anything that wrong. They're just there at the wrong time and are taking the brunt of the pent up anger inside of the manager.

Note: If the employee needs talking to, take them round the back and out of site and discuss it in a calm manner. Doesn't take a genius to know that's good practice for a manager, but you'd be surprised. Don't be that person who manipulates and embarasses someone in front of the customers and co-workers, especially if it's something miniscule.

which goes onto my next point...

2. They micromanage.

Oh don't get me started on this one, I could write an entire blog post about micromanagement in the coffee industry. Speciality coffee includes a lot of tiny details which, when changed, can alter the final product considerably. However that's okay. What's not okay is micromanaging the team in other ways.

Is that cake really in the wrong place? Should that team member really be saying that certain word in their sentence rather than the other? Okay sure, if their customer service as an entirety is terrible it's worth talking to them, but if you're just personally inflicting your micromanagement on them, it just comes off petty and you'll get your team constantly worrying over their actions. That's not good for anyone - they won't be able to get on and work to their full capacity.

3. There's new staff constantly...and a 'staff wanted' sign in the door.

Okay, to clarify, the coffee industry does have a higher staff turnover than most. There's lots of factors for this, including the fact that people do tend to want to only commit to short term contracts within the industry as many people do it in between pursuing other passions. It's also notable that this turnover will be higher in the summer months, as many baristas are students and thus will leave in blocks at the end of the academic year.

However, it's not okay if there's a handful of new staff members every month. What amazes me is that the owners of the coffee shop don't notice this (or to be honest, don't even care). Hiring and training new team members is actually way more expensive than keeping old ones, but these toxic managers tend to think of team members as disposable pieces of their business, rather than genuine human beings who they should be looking after (in an employer-employee relationship).

4. The service is bad.

I know, it's like a downward spiral really. The owner is arsy with the employees which puts them in a bad mood and makes their service worse. This then means that the owner freaks out and treats them worse, then they get in an even worse mood. It keeps going down and down and down until, yep - number three happens. Hence why there's such a high turnover.

But heck, maybe you should reconsider why everyone is in a bad mood in the shop. Sure, if it's just the one team member then it's probably just them (and they really should probably not be in customer service), but if it's the entire team falling from grace, then it's quite possibly the owner giving them all a hard time.


So if you're seeing any of these signs in a coffee shop on a day-by-day basis, I would kindly recommend you refrain from visiting. I mean heck, if their coffee is gorgeous and it's the only place in town then I'm not going to restrict you, but trust me when I say that a cup of coffee tastes five times greater when made with love from a happy barista.

Until next time, lovelies.

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