Fraser Jamieson
Barista Training & Consulting
Fraser Jamieson
Barista Training & Consulting

Restaurant Coaching

Fifty Cents Worth Of Philosophy

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If you are interested I would like to offer a little restaurant coaching here. To those wanting to open a cafe, without past experience, may I suggest that you first try working in one.

To start, see if you can get a job washing dishes, or as a bar-back in a good restaurant. Don’t apply for a head bartender, lead barista, or FOH management position. When you get your own place you’ll be washing dishes, hauling crap up from the basement, and taking the garbage out. Get used to it.

Working in an “entry” position is worth its weight in gold. You’ll learn from everyone there. If your focus is truly on coffee by all means get barista jobs in both a chain and a quality focused Indie shop.

If your current career is a bit higher and mightier don’t worry about it. Your friends won’t care if they see you wearing kitchen whites and a hair net. They may joke about it but will be impressed with your research.

Some of my customers are established coffee bars and restaurants but not all. A number of people have come to me for training while they were holding down a “real job” and learning the hospitality ropes.

Never underestimate the importance of the experience / training ratio.


Do You Want To Be In Charge Or Do You Want To Be Successful?

Apple turnovers are delicious.
Staff turnovers? Not so much.

Obviously, people will come and go from your restaurant for many reasons including school attendance, family moves, and career changes. Too often, however, team members pack it in and leave simply because they don’t like the way a shop is managed.

Or, mismanaged, as the case may be.

Finding great staff can be difficult at the best of times. If you want to keep a solid team running smoothly you should work toward the implementation of “best practices”.

Clients, and my followers on Facebook and LinkedIn, will have heard me use the term “Incestuous Training” many times. That’s where outgoing staff train incoming staff, who in turn train new incoming staff, before they too move on, but not before training newbies, who quit.

It’s like the telephone game: After a few cycles you’ll be lucky if your coffee is still brewed hot and brown.

Well, unfortunately, within the food service industry there exists a great deal of incestuous human resources training, where poor policies from decades ago have been adopted, twisted, ignored, and generally reduced to the illogical and absurd.

Perceived as a magic art, by some, there are actually mathematical principles at play in human resource management which can often be processed through truth tables and analysed with Boolean Algebra as you would many other complex systems. I’m not speaking here of non-harassment training and such but about utilisation and substitution policies; basically, the business’s core operational framework.

The question “Is it A or B?” is not a logical one.

The questions should be “Is it A or not A? Is it B or not B?”

Understanding the fundamental difference keeps trains from derailing at switches and will help you to better meet your staffing requirements while not pissing off your people to the point THEY fire YOU.

Keep fundamental questions in mind as you think about this:

You’ve been storing cans of oil paint and Varsol in the same room your electrical panel is located. Your cat pushes a running blender into an upstairs kitchen sink full of hot soapy water. The breaker blows, creating a spark, resulting in a chemical explosion and fire.

Should the Fire Department: A–explain the stupidity of storing volatiles in the electrical room, or B–extinguish the fire?

Forget about the cat. That’s just what they do.

I’ll let you think about that while I pose a second scenario:

Kelly and Suzanne have opened your store at 07:00 hours and are due to be joined by Ruth and Joanna at 14:00 when they will then overlap for an hour before Kelly and Suzanne clock out at 15:00. Ruth and Joanna have been scheduled to work until 21:00.

At 14:20 Kelly calls to inform you that neither Ruth nor Joanna have arrived.

Should you: A–Print out 14 copies of your staff manual and email out notification of an urgent staff meeting for the following Sunday at 21:00, or B–get your fat arse over to the store and fill in while you rustle up a replacement crew?

If you answered “A” I’m guessing that you’ve already printed out their termination notices and added up their hours.

You may also feel like an idiot when you find out the next day that they were driving in to work together when they were rear ended by a drunk driver.

Unlike the cat story, that last one is real. (names changed)

Moving on.

Molly has been feeling a little off for a few days but put it down to nothing more than final exam stress. Today she woke up with a brutal headache and a nose running like a tap.

She calls you first thing in the morning to tell you she’s sick. (I’m guessing here you’ve passed your Region of Peel Food Handler’s Exam)

Should you: A–tell her to suck it up and either do her job or find a replacement, or B–say “Well crap. Get better soon.” and then manage the problem by finding an available alternate yourself?

(Again, I’m guessing here that you’ve passed your Region of Peel Food Handler’s Exam.)

Oh, sorry, did I forget to mention that sick people are not allowed behind the counter?

Situation number four:

You have First Tier and Second Tier employees. First tier staff can do almost everything in the store. Second tier staff can do many things but must be accompanied by a lead hand.

Dianne’s boyfriend Jack was just given Pink tickets for his birthday. The concert is on a date Dianne is booked to work. Dianne (First Tier) asks her co-worker June (First Tier) if she’d mind switching shifts with her. June agrees and asks for Dianne to cover one of hers in return. Dianne emails you to inform you of an agreed-to substitution.

Should you: A–have a tantrum and point out that two weeks notice is required for all substitutions and refuse the change, or B–tell her that you saw Pink a few years back and that she’s amazing, then point out that you need the white board updated and a supporting email cc’d to June?

Remember this is 2017 not 1957. If you are still employing HR principles from the age of chrome bumpers and big tail fins then chances are you’re running a revolving door for short term employees.

As much as I derive my income from repeatedly training client’s staff my goal is to address normal attrition not perform emergency repairs to a broken system.

So, ask yourself:

Do you want to be in charge or do you want to be successful?


The Expodist

Rain had fallen for several days.

On that particular morning a thick fog rolled in before dawn and continued to envelop the village in a biting dampness the sort which at first seems of little matter; however, the longer one walked about in it the colder and more uncomfortable one became. This was not the refreshing downpour you may expect of an April shower; but instead, a relentless, foggy, swirling, November mist lacking clearly defined droplets. Nonetheless, any and all in its presence knew only too well the discomfort of saturation.

Dressed all in black, blue, the only spark of colour about me, was but the fabric of my carrier bag. Within its confines lay the tools of my trade.

I am The Expodist.

Met quietly by the locked back door I was escorted inward and onward to the restaurant’s main bar all the while aware that a somber gauntlet funnelled my path. Long faces and hushed murmurs set the mood of the place. The warm tones of brass and polished wooden finishes, which would otherwise be welcoming, only served to mock the dark and menacing tension which seemingly brought about the terrors of suffocation. As I stood before the bar those in attendance circled about me in complete and utter silence as from the depths of the office below there came toward me a most troubled looking young man replete with hipster beard and sleeves of iconography.

“Good morning” he almost whispered “I’m Josh the manager. The owner won’t come in anymore. Only these few here are still willing to work.The rest have quit. I know how this sounds but we think the place is haunted. Yeah, I know, but we think there’s a spirit present, and not a nice one. Yeah, I know, but we have seen things happen, and so have our customers. People aren’t coming back. They’ll tell us how good our food is…but then…never return.”

I said nothing and made no eye contact but picked at my ear while scanning down the bar top and back toward myself along the foot rail.

“It’s an old building” continued Josh, “We don’t really know the history of it but it’s been here for over a century. I don’t think it was always a restaurant. Someone said it was a bank and they used to get robbed a lot back in the 1920s. People were shot.”

I said nothing but once more scanned the bar and continued to scratch my ear.

“We’ve been finding breath mints all over the store. We don’t have any mints. You know how some places have mints by the cash? Right? Well, we don’t. But we’re finding them and it’s as if people have been spitting them out in the washrooms and on the stairs. It’s happening pretty much every day.”

I said nothing but continued to scratch my ear.

“Do you have any idea what it is? asked Josh humbly.

“Yes, I’ve got an ingrown hair. A bit of bother, really. Been there for years.”

“No no!” Josh blurted out, “Do you have any idea about our bar? Could we be possessed by the tormented spirits of murdered bank tellers from long ago?”
I said nothing but walked over to the front door, checked that it was still locked, and returned to where I had been standing.

While I continued to scratch my ear one of the servers in the circle slowly put up her hand to speak.

“Hi, I’m Sophia. Umm, I don’t know if this means anything, but, like, I’ve been here for years and it wasn’t always like this. I mean, like, way long ago, about 2008, everything was fine and all of our customers were happy. The staff were all happy. Everything was great. I don’t know if this makes any sense but since then we’ve brought in some new and used machines. I saw this show on TV about a crashed airliner and how the parts they took out of it were used on other planes and how people started seeing the ghosts of the dead flight crew. It was, like, on that show called Malay.”

“Mayday, my dear. The show is called Mayday.” I corrected her. “Yes, I saw that one. Dead pilot by the coffee machine. Yes, I did see that.”

“Do you think that could be it?” Sophia questioned, this time with eyes awide and beaming with the joy of her possible discovery.

“You are a very bright and highly observant young woman. Do tell more.”

“Well,” continued Sophia, customers have been telling me things like, umm, like they need five or even six sugars in their coffee. A couple of people told me that their cappuccino had the texture of lemon meringue pie…but not in a nice way. Like, umm, like frothy and burnt tasting.”

“I see” I said. “And do continue.”

“Well, like, people will order a really nice dessert and a coffee to go with it. When we come by for the quality check they ask for the bill leaving most of it untouched. We know the cakes are great because our dishwasher pretty much eats everything that gets left on the plates. He loves the stuff. Yeah, he’s weird.”

Now, with my arms locked behind my back, and my head, upward tilted, I breathed deeply, all the while keeping my eyes closed. “I’m sensing something. I’m sensing a presence. There is a spirit in this place. Yes! Yes! I’m feeling the possession: That which is most evil. Evil to the core doth linger in this place!”

And then, with much fanfare, I spun about toward the back-bar and in a manner inspired by Donald Sutherland’s performance in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, I extended my arm outward holding within my grasp the flashlight I had secretly spirited out of my blue bag. With a terrible howl I cast the beam of my flashlight upon the Satanically possessed cause of all their troubles: A POD COFFEE BREWER!

“You are all suffering the wrath of PCB intoxication!”

“Umm, you mean that red stuff in transformers?” questioned Josh.

“No, not that PCB.” I exclaimed. “That PCB would be a relative blessing compared to what we see before us.” And, continuing to shine my flashlight on the Demonic coffeeish brewer, I held my left hand against my heart and called aloud: “Oh, spirits, tell me not that this is the image of what must come, but only what is, and which can be altered and made whole again!”

“Hey, I know that story.” said Sophia, but after giving her the evil eye, she silenced herself.

“Servers and bartenders alike: avert your eyes for I must now perform an Expodism!”

“A what?” Josh asked with tilted head.

“An Expodism! The casting out of a Pod Coffee Brewer and all its vile pustules of abomination.

And at that point I wasted no time: From my blue bag I pulled the many implements of purification: Remineralised, reverse osmosis water was sprinkled generously about the counter top; with flashlight in one hand and a Reg Barber Tamper in the other, I cast upon the machine a shadow of the Tamper all the while calling aloud TDS brew parameters.

“In the name of Brew To Order I cast out this agent of Satan. Be gone corrupter! Be gone, poser and fake. Take your falsehood to the depths of the burning fires and be gone from this restaurant!”

And then, in a flash, I swept the machine and all its vile pustules off the counter and into a large waste bin left out by the night staff.

No sooner had that happened when Sophia called out and with tears of joy running down her face and arm extended as per my previous example exclaimed: “The sun! The sun is out!”

Ooos and awws were heard from all as the staff likewise pointed to the sunbeams streaming in through the front windows of the shop. Customers had already begun to line up at the locked front door and with smiles waved to the staff in readiness and eager anticipation of the wonderful lunches to come.

That day, coffee was catered by a nearby speciality shop; but, the very next day, a new and unpossessed espresso grinder and proper commercial espresso machine were delivered, set up, and put into service. Shortly thereafter I returned to give basic barista training to all those I’d first met and to all the many more who had returned to work in the old bank building happily serving their many satisfied customers.

Sophia then gave me her cell phone number in case I wanted to meet up.

Ah, yes, so many tales in the life of The Expodist.

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