Ask the Sprofessionals—Scheduling

In this series, seven industry experts sound off on issues around café policy, breaking down the ins and outs of how policy affects morale and retention.


Check out Volume 1 of this series here, Volume 2 here, Volume 3 here, and Volume 4 here.

Volume 5—The Sprofessionals on Scheduling

Today, a panel of veteran coffee pros lend their expertise to one of the trickiest logistical issues in café work: regular scheduling.

A worker’s schedule ultimately provides the framework for their entire life, so in a lot of ways it can define their entire job. Should baristas be on call and define their schedules around their work from week to week, or should cafés push for work-life balance? Is regularity the key to a great schedule, or is flexibility ideal? Does proper scheduling have a positive impact on retention, or is irregularity just a fact of #baristalife?

The Sprofessionals are here to help break down what works and what doesn’t when it comes to scheduling.

The Question: Do you feel that regular schedules are important to café retention and morale?

Claire Fox, nine years in coffee, retail manager

“I do think that regular schedules give employees a sense of longevity; if they know that their schedule three months from now is the same as it is this week, they can plan their lives outside of work based on information they already have. But, I don’t think that regular/irregular schedules are as key to keeping a shop’s staff happy as is making sure everyone is compensated fairly, or hiring a staff that has good chemistry.

I know that my personal preference is having a set schedule because I love to plan, but I’ve worked at shops that have both regular and irregular schedules, and I know that each kind of schedule works best for different personality types—and there are so many personalities working in coffee.”

Joe Marrocco, 12 years in coffee, senior sales & director of education at Cafe Imports

“A café should be flexible with the schedule needs of its employees. Regular schedules are better for some employees, and flexible schedules are better for others. You will broaden your base of employees by being open to employee needs.

For instance, when scheduling a person who is looking at being a barista as a career, working 40 hours a week on a regular rotation will solidify this. Many baristas, on the other hand, use these jobs to work themselves through college, support other life goals, and require flexibility and less-than-full-time employment. By supporting only one kind of employee, you put a lot of stress on the other kind.

Making schedules is kind of like weaving: The full-time positions are the stronger supports for the work week, and the more flexible positions fill the gaps and give the manager room to keep things malleable. Then, when a full-timer is sick or on vacation, the whole things doesn’t come crashing down.”

Randy Levine, four years in coffee, barista at Cafe Volan

“I personally prefer a fluctuating, flexible schedule. However, I know that the erratic and inconsistent schedules at cafés are a point of tension, stress, and anxiety for a lot of people. Consistency and regularity means people can manage their lives outside of the café more easily. As a manager, I spent a lot of time and energy figuring out how to provide the types of schedules that people needed and wanted. In an industry that is basically defined by working when other people are not (weekends and holidays), meeting employees’ scheduling needs is so important.”

Randy Levine prefers a schedule that is flexible, and spends a lot of time making sure a schedule fits the needs of the staff. Photo by Angela Ferrara.

Liz Dean, six years in coffee, regional manager at The Wing

“Most of the staff I’ve worked with over the years have other things going on in their lives—other jobs, a music/acting/comedy/art career, children, etc.—that they have to plan their lives around. An unpredictable or constantly changing schedule makes that extremely challenging.

I will say that some staff don’t mind, because their own schedules are unpredictable and they appreciate the flexibility. But those staff members don’t usually stick around for long because coffee/food service is not their main focus.

Either way, all aspects of scheduling are something that should be communicated clearly—that is the most important thing.”

The Takeaways:

  1. Regular schedules are important to retention.
  2. Flexibility for employees that need it is just as important.
  3. Communication is the most important of all.
  4. It takes all types of workers to make a happy café staff.

Do you agree with the Sprofessionals? Leave your take in the comments section.

RJ Joseph roasts coffee and writes a blog called Queer Cup in addition to her other adventures in coffee journalism. Her writing focuses primarily on equity, workers’ rights, and alternatives to the status quo. In her free time she loves cooking, reading, and being in Oakland, Calif. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

About baristamagazine 2108 Articles
Barista Magazine is the leading trade magazine in the world for the professional coffee community.