Ask the Sprofessionals—Part One: Employee Reviews and Feedback

In this three-part series, industry experts sound off on issues around café policy, breaking down the ins and outs of how rules and systems affect morale and retention.


Today, a panel of veteran coffee professionals lend their expertise to a subject crucial to employee satisfaction, retention, and engagement—employee reviews and feedback. Productive, constructive reviews and feedback are essential to the growth of any business and the professionals that constitute it. But how should a review system look? The options are endless, and the key is defining your goal.

What should a review system aim to achieve? The Sprofessionals are here to help break down the right factors on which to set your sights.

The question: What do you think should be the goal of employee reviews? If done right, what do you think the results can be?

Liz Dean, eight years in coffee, area lead (Chicago, D.C., and Boston regions) for The Wing, former manager and barista:

“To me, the goals of employee reviews are: 1) to give an employee a holistic overview of their performance over a given period of time, and 2) to use this holistic overview as a guide to outline future goals and objectives for their performance and career.”

U.S. Coffee In Good Spirits competitor and freelance barista Meghan-Annette Reida says that managers shouldn’t wait until reviews to bring up issues, something many of the other Sprofessionals also emphasized. Photo courtesy of Meghan-Annette Reida.

Meghan-Annette Reida, five years in coffee, freelance barista and U.S. Coffee In Good Spirits competitor:

“I think the goal of employee reviews should ultimately be to strengthen the organization as a whole, by maximizing the growth of each individual. To me this involves constructive performance feedback including positive critiques and suggestions for improvement.”

Jenn Chen emphasizes that no one can grow if reviews only include praise. Photo courtesy of Jenn Chen.

Jenn Chen, eight years in coffee, coffee marketer:

“The goal of reviews should be to provide honest and actionable feedback for the employee.”

Tim Cox, 11 years in coffee, business development manager for KLLR Coffee, former café co-owner:

“First, it’s an opportunity for an employer to provide the tools their staff need to grow and develop themselves both within their skillsets in their jobs and potentially as individuals as well. This is more than saying, ‘This is what you need to do better.’ It’s saying, ‘These are the areas where there are opportunities for growth, and here are the tools and strategies of how we can get there.’ Or sometimes it needs to be more of a question: ‘What do you need from me to achieve this growth?’

“In a review, it’s also important that employers reveal to their staff what they do really well. Work in the service industry can be exhausting, and without validation of this hard work, it’s easy for folks to become jaded. Sometimes people don’t even know how great of a job they are doing. Explaining to your staff that you recognize and appreciate the value they contribute to a team is vital.

“Next, a review is an opportunity for an employer to find out where their employee wants to go with their career. I think oftentimes reviews are kept much too confined to the context of a current position. This should be a time for an employer and employee to explore together how an employee would like to contribute their unique talents.

“Last, a review should be a time for an employer to explore how effective a manager or operator they are. When I review staff, I like to have them review me as well. The feedback loop needs to go both ways to ensure a healthy employer/employee relationship. It’s important that these conversations can be candid and transparent, which can be tough, but if an employer is humble and genuinely wants to serve their staff better, these conversations are a great opportunity to accomplish that.”

With a long history in hospitality, Bethany Letoto thinks that the goal of a review should be professional growth for all parties, not just the employee. Photo by John Letoto.

Bethany Letoto, seven years in coffee, freelance writer, former barista and roaster:

“Personal and professional growth for all parties. If done right, they should increase feelings of satisfaction, loyalty, and (for me) motivation to be better at my job than I was before, as well as feelings of mutual trust and retention.

Review systems are AWESOME, but only if management and ownership already have a grasp of productive and healthy communication. If that’s lacking, reviews won’t fix what’s broken, and may make it worse. Investing in some small-group communication classes for managers might be a better first step.”

Hiu Yan (Sharon) Fung says that transparency is critical to the efficacy and fairness of reviews. Photo by Hiu Yan (Sharon) Fung.

Hiu Yan (Sharon) Fung, barista and former café manager:

“The goal of employee reviews should be a transparent tool that helps managers/owners better understand what kind of extra help their staff needs, in order to meet the company’s wants and expectations. Also, it is a great tool to help employees better understand their growth within the company. If done right, I think it will strengthen the relationship between employees and employers.”

The Takeaways:

  1. Reviews should benefit all parties in the organization, and the organization itself.
  2. To do that, the goal should be a focus on mutual growth—not just issues with the employee.
  3. That means both positive and critical feedback are equally important.
  4. To make that work, all critical feedback should be actionable.

Do you agree with the Sprofessionals? Let us know your thoughts at

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_1627-150x150-1-1-1-2-1-1-1.jpg

RJ Joseph
works at Red Fox Coffee Merchants as a cupper and content strategist. Following coffee from Pittsburgh to Oakland, Calif., she became a certified Q-Grader and learned to roast, sling bags, and drive a forklift with the pros. Uniting her twin passions for coffee and writing, she launched a blog in 2016, then started freelancing, always maintaining a central focus on the ways in which coffee can make the world a more equitable place. She also runs a coffee satire site called The Knockbox. Outside of work, you’ll probably find her cooking, tending her many plants, listening to records, and walking around the city. If you see her around (especially if you find yourself standing alone awkwardly at an event), please come over and say hi.

About baristamagazine 2134 Articles
Barista Magazine is the leading trade magazine in the world for the professional coffee community.