What Attributes Set a Great Barista Apart from the Run-of-the-Mill?

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Garrick Saito, Starbucks fan.

From a “regular” customer’s point of view:

Yeah, I’m a regular at Starbucks. My name is Garrick, and I’m a coffeeholic.

Taken as a whole, I think the Starbucks baristas fall above the run-of-the-mill line. Sure, some are not as great as others, but I think a lot of them are exceptionally skilled at what they do.

For me (and, I think, countless others), it’s about the customer experience. Lots of companies can make a good cup of coffee, but it’s how you feel about your visit that can make the difference when it comes to whether or not customers come back again and again.

The “great” baristas are the ones that are skilled at noticing customer patterns or remembering your face. If they see you more than a few times, they’ll eventually introduce themselves to you and ask your name. They are skilled at engaging people in a friendly demeanor. If they see you ordering the same drink over and over again, they’ll eventually memorize it. Frankly, with hundreds upon hundreds of customers they see every day, I don’t know how they can possibly do it, but they do. They’re constantly looking at the line, seeing if they can remember your face and your drink, as if they are playing a game of Concentration. Sometimes, your name escapes them, but often it does not.

Often, I’ll be standing in line (at my “regular” Starbucks), and I’ll see the barista give me a glance. They’ll start making my drink even before I even order, many times having it ready by the time I actually have to say anything. That’s a really nice touch. They just saved me five minutes off a busy day. That’s appreciated.

They ask how my day is going or what I’m planning on doing this weekend and exchange other similar pleasantries.

They call me by name, which of course everybody responds favorably to. Makes for a stronger connection.

Starbucks, like every place on earth, is not a perfect place. Sometimes, something will go wrong with my drink. They are quick to apologize and more than quick to make it right. I appreciate that.

Sometimes, I’ll catch them in the middle of a brewing a new batch (with no drip coffee immediately available). They’ll tell me it’s on the house. Really, I get a $2 free cup of coffee for you making me wait for a whole four minutes? I realize it is an apology of sorts, but really, it’s perfectly understandable that you’ll run out at “some” point. I feel guilty taking the free cup, but I don’t want to insult them by refusing the “apology.”

I can’t say enough good things about the great baristas. I love that place.

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