I’d be remiss if I didn’t write that most businesses in food and/or hospitality are generating the same type of sentiment. Labor is and has always been a major component of the bottom line not only in terms of profitability but perhaps equally, in terms of a business’s viability for long-term success and survival. The pressing concern these days, which I don’t seem to hear or see being met by most cafés, is the workforce’s demand for a host of things beyond just the per-hour compensation agreement. Would-be coffee workers want to work with people they like and respect, and that are looking out for them in a variety of ways. This isn’t a new concept, but it feels a bit heavier than it used to be.
Study after study, post pandemic, speaks to “must haves” like shift flexibility, mission driven issues, social impact, career growth and a host of career-oriented things typically around personal development. These are all in addition to the compensation schedule. It’s a difficult managerial course to navigate, in an industry typically driven to a seasonal labor force of high school and college age students to fill in the gaps amongst permanent staff members. Shift management is already a yeoman’s effort to complete without factoring in class schedules and holidays with this type of demographic amongst the café’s operation.
All said, while it is a tough equation for most businesses, it is one that can and must be dealt with. That’s evidenced by the very successful operations we all encounter from time to time. If one was to inquire about a café staff’s average tenure at a successful shop, you’d probably hear it answered in terms of years and not weeks or months. If you then asked, “why so?”, you’d probably hear, coffee related trips to seminars, conventions, great people, educational and managerial opportunities etc. Today’s workforce seeks a fair and honest wage AND to be inspired for the future in a super business environment. A café bricks and mortar operation does not have to answer the question of whether one can work there forever but it should be able to succinctly answer the question of “Will you help me each and every day to better myself and prepare me for my promising future”? Think about the student summer jobs of years gone by in an ice cream shop, a bowling alley, or a bakery to name just a few. Now think about the stories told from those places by countless former students who did their respective times there and beam with pride years later when they talk about their own success formulas being shaped there. The work ethic they developed shoveling Rocky Road after Chocolate Mint Chip after Sugar Free Cherry Ice cups and cones in the swelter of an August night was second to none.