I’ve been in coffee a long time now, 13 years, and in the past 4½ years, helped open lots of coffee shops. There’s one question I get a lot when helping folks open shops, and that’s “How much should a barista make?” Well, since I know baristas don’t make what they should make by and large, and since wages vary greatly from state to state, there’s not been a clear answer. But, I wanted to set out to get a nationwide average, just to have an idea where we’re at, and where we want to be in terms of barista salary. So, I posted up a barista salary survey.
There are a lot of things that go into what a barista makes, and should. First off, how much training has the barista attended for themselves and their company. Are they BGA Level certified?(Insert plug for BGA Certification, since that’s one of our driving reasons for creating the certification, the barista to make more money based on completing more industry current training.) Has the barista attended the available trainings from their roaster? Have they attended SCAA’s Skill Building Workshops? Second, what is the level of service they provide in a shop? What is the amount of responsibility? Where is the shop located? Wages will vary from state to state, city to city based on minimum wages and costs of living. Are they true coffee professionals, coffee salesmen, and ambassadors for the coffee industry? These are all variables to think about when considering what a barista should make.
I do know there are many baristas who don’t see coffee as a long-term career, and that’s okay. I know many baristas that work incredibly hard at their craft, are always aiming to learn more, and are engaged with the community as a whole through social media and events. I also know that shop owners are being pinched from every side cost wise, especially as coffee prices have increased. Milk costs are up, paper costs are up, fuel costs are up, sugar’s up, every cost that’s related to a coffee shop has gone up dramatically over the last year. Shop owners need to be careful with their money, and that includes wages. They want to be staffing the best, most efficient baristas. They want to to pay fair wages to attract and keep the best staff. And this is where baristas need to be ever mindful of their value and what they bring to the team, even the ones who don’t see coffee as a career. The shops where I’ve seen some of the best quality come from are the ones where the baristas make a good, fair wage, invest in good training, and the owner rewards those things, creating a more faithful and appreciative employee.
I believe baristas have a great responsibility to help shop owners become more successful, so that they themselves benefit through future wage increases. Shop owners have a responsibility to reward the hard work and investment given by their baristas to make their businesses more successful. If a barista’s actions lead to increased bean sales, or drink sales, while at the same time giving the best customer service, certainly the barista should financially benefit when it’s able to happen. But that means that baristas should excel in all areas: Customer Service, product quality, and efficiency. That’s where training and community comes in.
I believe there is endless potential for baristas, I believe the coffee industry has great coffee homes available for people who show passion and drive. I’ve seen it myself and where I’ve come from. I think back to when I started out volunteering at SCAA Skill Building Workshops, to now, taking over as Chair of the Barista Guild in a couple of weeks, working for one of the best coffee companies out there. All it takes is passion and drive and willingness to take advantage of everything the coffee community has to offer. Take advantage of BGA event and labs. Get plugged into the BGA, and find out what opportunities there are not just to take part in, but what you can help lead yourself. The BGA is a tool for baristas for their professional development. Labs created for BGA classes are written and lead by some of the industry’s most knowledgeable and humble folks. Take advantage of coffee events hosted by your local roasters. Take advantage of the training your roaster provides. Attend cuppings, manual brew battles, latte art throwdowns. Just get plugged in. Have a hand in increasing your wages by increasing and showing your value to your shop’s owner.
I believe that as we all continue to push the barista and coffee community forward, we will all benefit and remain sustainable, which should be our end goal. Remember, we’re not doing this just for us, but for farmers, pickers and processors on the other end of the chain who are relying on us to be ambassadors for amazing coffee. So, as you work hard to increase your wages, work even harder to increase theirs. Viva Barista!
In total, there were 320 actual survey responses, all taken from Survey Monkey. There was only one question asked, which was “How Much Do You Make Per Hour as a Barista, before tips?” (It should also be noted that most baristas can make a good bit over this when you add in tips, which are based on excellent customer service, another area in which baristas can work to get better and see higher wages.)
(Special thanks to Matt Hoag, for creating the bar chart.)