Sludge: The Unfiltered Coffeebar Journey

People ask me all of the time, “hey can I talk to you, I want to start my own coffee shop.”  I always respond with “have you ever worked in a coffee shop before? Nine times out of ten the answer is “No”.  So then I respond with “why don’t you go out and get a job at a coffee shop for six months, if after that period of time, you still want to still open one up, I will help you.”  I hear back from less than 1% of these people.  You know why… because running a coffee shop is fucking hard.  It is as they say, “THE GRIND”.  You wake up every day before the sun and often go to sleep long after it has set.  At Coffeebar in Truckee, I took only 5 days off in the first calendar year we were open.  I joked with people that I worked half time… twelve hours a day, seven days a week!

If you are operating a coffee shop that has any sort of volume, you have to have employees to help you run the operation. AND your business will either live or die by the type of employees you have.  My business is only as good as the person behind the register, or behind the bar, on any given day.  In fact, Starbucks values these people so much that they call them Partners.  Coming from a sports background, I like to call them teammates… and without a great team, your business will fail.

To ensure your success, you have to make sure you have the right amount of teammates trained in the proper way to allow for your vision to be executed. In our business we treat our staff more like family more than employees.  If you have been in any of our stores, you will notice an immediate difference between the service you get at Coffeebar and other places.  Excellent customer service is our secret ingredient!  Our training program is several weeks and sometimes months long depending on the position.  The tough part of staffing is that even if you are running an exceptional business you may only change over a few people every few months but if you have a business in Truckee, you will lose and need one almost every week.  How can you possibly plan for that?

First, Truckee is perhaps the most transient place that I have ever operated a business in my restaurant/café career. “The Tahoe Lifestyle,” lasts about 3-6 months for most people and then “POOF”… they’re gone. Let’s do some math…  in 2014 aside from the 20+ team members still working at the New Year, we had … drumroll…. FIFTY-SEVEN … yes, 57 W2’s of people that were no longer working for us!  In Reno the same comparison was four! It costs $800 to properly train a team member, so if you’ve lost 57 of them over the course of a year it’s lost revenue of over $45,000! So if you think the rest of the business is hard, try staffing in Truckee!

So if you still want to open a coffee shop then…stay tuned for next month’s column!

And just incase you don’t know, we’re hiring in Truckee. Go figure.