Retrograde’s Danielle Connor made a quick guide on how to ensure your café is a welcoming place for everyone in your community.
BY J. MARIE CARLAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Featured photo by Mercedes Mehling via Unsplash
Trigger warning: an instance of homophobia
Retrograde Coffee Roasters is located in Sebastopol, a small town in Sonoma County, Calif., that is traditionally LGBTQIA-friendly. Founded in 2014, when owners Danielle Connor and Casey Lanski roasted beans in their home kitchen, Retrograde has been doing coffee with a sense of purpose from day one. They’ve prioritized giving back to local causes and committing to sustainable and green business practices.
Recently, when Danielle was driving through town, she passed an area frequently used for protests and saw a woman holding two anti-trans signs. Danielle was saddened and surprised, but then she remembered that Sonoma County can be a politically divided area, despite the strong presence of queer folks and allies. Regarding the incident, she shares, “I had to remember that there are people in my small town that don’t agree with me. It’s easy to feel like you’re in a bubble. You don’t really know everyone you’re serving.“
She began to think of the LGBTQIA folks in her town and how those signs would make them feel. Danielle knew that many businesses nearby supported gay rights, but some were afraid to show their support or were unaware of how to do so. So she decided to make a list of things businesses could do to create a welcoming space for everyone in the community; she did so in a guide she posted on Instagram on June 5.
Tip 1: Hire Queer People
“We have queer and trans team members,“ Danielle says of Retrograde. She has been encouraged that team members feel free to stay at work while transitioning and that customers have, overall, been supportive. Danielle stresses having protective policies in place in the employee handbook; having a culture of mutual respect goes a long way in creating a safe environment for team members. Further, it is important to keep your word, and follow through on consequences for harassment and unsafe behaviors.
Another suggestion from the Instagram post that is worth mentioning: Listen to employees when they give feedback on company culture, so they will know you truly desire a supportive workplace. Having open conversations is the surest way of keeping everyone on the same page.
Tip 2: Greetings and Goodbyes
Cafés don’t need to go the way of Walmart and keep a greeter by the door, but employees can send a quick hello to customers as they enter, and say thanks when they leave the shop.
As a customer, I always shout a thank you to my baristas when I leave a shop. As a barista myself, I try to say thank you to folks as they head out the door. It isn’t always easy to squeeze them in during a rush, but greetings can help put folks at ease and, as Danielle says in her post, it sets the tone for positive interactions for everyone.
Tip 3: Respecting Pronouns
Don’t assume that your customers use certain pronouns. Pronouns are not always obvious, and many people identify as genderqueer and may present differently at different times. It’s best to use gender-neutral pronouns unless you’re sure.
When meeting new employees, provide your pronouns first, then ask for theirs. Try your best to remember, and apologize if you make a mistake. It may help to list pronouns on documents, on schedules, or on work messaging apps such as Slack.
Tip 4: Don’t Dead-Name
Sometimes people change their names, go by nicknames, or no longer identify with the associated gender of their given name. If you use counter service, the easiest way to avoid dead naming is to assign numbers or request guest names during their order. This will keep things running smoothly and will validate the guest’s identity and feelings.
Tip 5: Sign Support
A pride flag, a rainbow sign stating that all are welcome, or similar signage in the window announces to everyone that your café is a safe and affirming place to visit. Gender-neutral bathroom signage can also help people feel comfortable using the facility of their preference.
Retrograde Coffee Roasters supports LGBTQIA causes year-round, such as the nonprofit Positive Images and the yearly QTYA Retreat put on by Metamorph Mentorship. However, if the community didn’t see any visible sign of Retrograde’s support of these entities, they may never know!
Tips 6 & 7: Offer Support, and Speak Up
Vocal support is essential to helping the LGBTQIA community; there is safety in numbers.
While it can be intimidating to open your business up to criticism, Danielle encourages other business owners with these words: “Instead of being afraid of what could happen, think of what good things could happen!“ You could be the only affirming place in someone’s life. You could become a safe gathering place for LGBTQIA youth, a very vulnerable group. You could even increase profits as allies recognize your support.
As Danielle wrote in the original post: “These are all things I’ve learned over the years and they cost nothing to do. My goal with sharing this is to encourage other small business owners to create inclusive spaces with some simple things you can do year-round and incorporate into your training routines.“
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J. Marie Carlan (she/they) is the online editor for Barista Magazine. She’s been a barista for 15 years and writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. When she’s not behind the espresso bar or toiling over content, you can find her perusing record stores, collecting bric-a-brac, writing poetry, and trying to keep the plants alive in her Denver apartment. She occasionally updates her blog.
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