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If you have worked in a coffee shop long enough there are times when you feel like you have just been belittled. “What do you mean Danny?”

Well let me set the scene for you and bare with me if you will. Your fifth customer during your early morning rush finally gets to the counter. You say with a smile and all sincerity, “Good morning! What can we get started for you this morning?” Their dry, impatient response, “Small drip. Ethiopia.” Ugh! Really? You have been slammed trying to make drinks, make sandwiches, do pour overs, etc. and you still have the awareness to greet with a smile and kind saying, and all they can muster for you is their order without any greeting or a “please”.

I know what you are thinking. “Well Danny they probably were waiting in line for a while and might be in a rush.” Or “They have had a tough morning too and you know the customer is always right.” And on and on we can speculate. But in transparency belittled is how a barista feels sometimes. Like our job isn’t as important as theirs. Our desire to please the customer gets trumped by a rushed order to get in and out with a ‘Hello’ or ‘Thank You’. Oh what are we to do?

Mr. or Ms. Barista I am here to tell you that that is our lot in life. It doesn’t matter what the customer does, thinks, says, because our job is to serve, and serve with a smile. We can’t assume their intentions, their demeanor, their disposition. You are right. We don’t know what they have experienced so far in their day. Maybe they are just a rude person in general. Or maybe they have had a crappy day. Not our job to determine the ‘why’ for the way they are, but rather how can we serve them to the best of our ability.

I get it. Sometimes you feel looked down upon. We all do in the food service industry at some point in our career. Let me encourage you about the importance of your job even though the CEO at your counter may not realize it. You are vital to their success. If a community, residential or commercial, is fortunate enough to have a nearby coffee shop, they quickly learn the critical part you play in their daily lives. “How?”, you ask.

Well, we may not be engineering the next super jet or finding a cure for cancer, but what we do offer is still valuable. The most obvious benefit to having a local barista is coffee. That is an easy one. But we are more than our coffee, or at least we should be. The barista offers a get away. We offer an opportunity for the average nine to fiver to get away from their mundane corporate tasks. We are a break from reality. Brief, but for a moment they get to breath. We are a conversation not pertaining to their work. Even if they wanted to talk about work, which we most likely wouldn’t understand, we still listen. And if they just want to vent and require no response, that we can do too.

Maybe they don’t need any one to talk to. Maybe it is just to see a smile. We may be the only smile they see that day. We have to consider that. We have to think that we are one connection of many in that day. What type of connection do we want to be? A positive or a negative one? We can’t drop the ball. I have had customers tell their life story, cry over a rough day, laugh at silliness (sometimes our own silliness), need a hug, ask for prayer, etc. Regardless, we are there. Sometimes it is awkward. That is okay. Sometimes it is burdensome. Still okay. Sometimes it is stressful. We will be okay. But it is a challenge to us, the barista, to know our place, embrace our role, and dive in ready to sometimes do life with our customers.

That brings people back for more. That CEO, that secretary, that engineer, that janitor, that construction worker, that fire fighter, that teacher, that coach, we have had them all. They come back because they know we care even if we don’t understand or relate. It becomes more than the coffee, it is now an experience, what I call the Barista Experience.

So next time instead of assuming that a customer is a jerk for what they say or not say at the register, do not allow their words to dictate your responsibility and devotion to craft and service. It is like unconditional love. We are to unconditionally serve. We don’t know their circumstances. We have no control over their responses to life. We do, however, have control over our response. Remember that, regardless, we are to strive to give grace to everyone and cheer if possible. Be a barista today, and be a great one!