What Attributes Set a Great Barista Apart from the Run-of-the-Mill?

The best answer to any question.
March 28 2012 1:26 PM

What Attributes Set a Great Barista Apart from the Run-of-the-Mill?


This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Garrick Saito, Starbucks fan.

From a "regular" customer's point of view:

Yeah, I'm a regular at Starbucks. My name is Garrick, and I'm a coffeeholic.

Taken as a whole, I think the Starbucks baristas fall above the run-of-the-mill line. Sure, some are not as great as others, but I think a lot of them are exceptionally skilled at what they do.

For me (and, I think, countless others), it's about the customer experience. Lots of companies can make a good cup of coffee, but it's how you feel about your visit that can make the difference when it comes to whether or not customers come back again and again.

The "great" baristas are the ones that are skilled at noticing customer patterns or remembering your face. If they see you more than a few times, they'll eventually introduce themselves to you and ask your name. They are skilled at engaging people in a friendly demeanor. If they see you ordering the same drink over and over again, they'll eventually memorize it. Frankly, with hundreds upon hundreds of customers they see every day, I don't know how they can possibly do it, but they do. They're constantly looking at the line, seeing if they can remember your face and your drink, as if they are playing a game of Concentration. Sometimes, your name escapes them, but often it does not.

Often, I'll be standing in line (at my "regular" Starbucks), and I'll see the barista give me a glance. They'll start making my drink even before I even order, many times having it ready by the time I actually have to say anything. That's a really nice touch. They just saved me five minutes off a busy day. That's appreciated.

They ask how my day is going or what I'm planning on doing this weekend and exchange other similar pleasantries.

They call me by name, which of course everybody responds favorably to. Makes for a stronger connection.

Starbucks, like every place on earth, is not a perfect place. Sometimes, something will go wrong with my drink. They are quick to apologize and more than quick to make it right. I appreciate that.

Sometimes, I'll catch them in the middle of a brewing a new batch (with no drip coffee immediately available). They'll tell me it's on the house. Really, I get a $2 free cup of coffee for you making me wait for a whole four minutes? I realize it is an apology of sorts, but really, it's perfectly understandable that you'll run out at "some" point. I feel guilty taking the free cup, but I don't want to insult them by refusing the "apology."

I can't say enough good things about the great baristas. I love that place.

More questions on coffee:



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?