Baristas from across the Middle East recently battled it out to be named the finest Costa coffee maker in the region in a competition in Dubai. The winner, Ace Valino of Bahrain, who impressed judges with his "sweet aromatic drink with a warm kick" will go on to compete for the Barista of the Year title. Judd Williams, the head of franchisee for Europe, Middle East, North Africa and India, explains why Costa holds the annual competition.
What's the idea behind the competition?
The competition is the search for an individual with not only great skills in making the perfect cup of coffee but someone who has a great personality and displays a passion in what they do.
How long does it take to train baristas up to the standard where they can compete for the title?
Any store member employee can enter the competition without restriction, from barista all the way through to store manager, regardless of how long they have been in the business.
How long did they have to prepare?
Our competitors have had one month to prepare from winning their country finals before the regional event.
What have they been doing during that time?
This month has been spent developing and perfecting their own speciality drink creation and building confidence through practising their presentation and performance at speed and under pressure. It is one thing being able to make great coffee in a store, but a totally different experience presenting it to an audience.
Is the competition designed to improve employee retention?
The competition itself is not a retention tool, and was designed as an opportunity to celebrate the fantastic people we have within our Costa businesses around the world. Off the back of that, naturally the event is morale building and essentially does drive some team retention, however this is difficult to measure or quantify.
What initiatives or tactics do you use to hold on to the best baristas?
There are many opportunities for successful baristas to progress through our in-store development Barista Learning Journey. This is our internal learning and development program that supports our teams from their very first day all the way through to becoming a qualified and successful store manager.
What happens once baristas have mastered the art of making a good coffee?
Once a barista has mastered the art of making great coffee themselves, we coach them into becoming barista maestros that support the in-store training of our baristas.
How challenging is employee retention in the coffee shop industry?
As far as branded coffee shops go, team retention is a relatively small issue. It is a competitive market and varies country by country.
What is the best way to retain baristas?
The most successful way to retain great people is through genuine reward and recognition, which can happen in many different ways in store.
What qualities do you need to be a barista?
Enthusiastic, team player, personable, passionate with an element of creativity in your bones. We can teach the rest.