This is day 9 of my 31 days of coffee shop stories. Welcome.
Enough with the sweet talk of dreams and branding, I say. Let’s get back with our feet on the ground and talk about the hard stuff. The staff. Hiring. And later on firing.
It’s not easy hiring people. Especially not in the business of hospitality. The more interviews I schedule, the more I think people are strange. And they lack the passion for their job, the will to be better and the drive to work harder every day. Most of them, at least. The others, I hire.
We always thought that natural talent, intelligence and wittiness are more important in a waiter, than a speciality school. I couldn’t care less that he/she can carry seven plates and two glasses all in the same time. My clients are not in a hurry. But they are craving smart, casual conversation, that only a smart person can have, without being neither impolite, nor aggressive.
For the bartenders, well, smart they have to be. Knowledgeable also. But they sure must have the passion for their work. A perfect cappuccino requires both skill and passion. A perfectly balanced cocktail is science and magic in the same time. And, as they pour spirits in the warm glass, they have to pour stories in the clients’ ears.
For the chefs, the problem is even more difficult. The kitchen is small. Unlike other bistros/restaurants, the kitchen is not divided in several sections (salads, desserts, warm dishes), which means there is one chef and one helper for all the jobs. Some appreciate the opportunity to treat the kitchen like their own little kingdom. Others run away from the hard work and the responsibility. We didn’t want those anyway.
In the beginning, our employment ads were as funny and witty as the employees we were looking for. Few actually clicked. Who would be interested to work in a central coffee shop looking for a chef that can do magic with the knife, write rejuvenating potions out of carrot and tomatoes and invent heavenly desserts suited for a princess’s wedding? Would you? Well, after a while, we droppen the funny ads. People started to come more and we could decide for ourselves who can do magic with the knife. And who is willing to commit to a kitchen all of their own.
Finding good people is always hard. But keeping them seems not that difficult for us. People who understand what we want to do, that we respect every crouton we serve and that we want to come here smiling, do the same. And we are grateful to all of them for their hard work.
our reserved bottles. labels with reserva(t), looking like a wine label
We have a waiter that we hired five times. He left four times (to finish school, to find another job, to visit India), but he always came back. He is working now and we are very happy and feel very relaxed when he is at work, because there is no issue that he can’t take care of. We hired one of my former students (from back when I was teaching statistics) who was looking for a job back in 2009. He used to work as a waiter, but I needed a bartender and we trained him. And we did it well. A couple of weeks ago, he said that working for us changed his life (he met his current girlfriend in the coffee shop). We had one amazing chef for two and a half years. Unfortunately, she had some medical issues and couldn’t work this kind of schedule anymore. We remember her passion and dedication even now and some of the best sellers in our menu are recipes that she created for us. We hired three or four of our clients. They love the atmosphere, needed a job and decided Lente is a good place to work. They weren’t wrong, it seems.
However, my idea for us to be all like a family is far from reality. No matter how well they do their job, how involved they are and how passionate about their work place, there is so much I can ask of them. And more of me.
See you tomorrow!