5 Lessons Learned from Starbucks "Black Apron"

starbucksOff with the "Green" and on with the "Black"... apron. 

The Starbucks Coffee Master program is symbolized with the receiving of, and the right to wear, the Black Apron.  You have to earn it.

My understanding of the Starbucks Coffee Master program, it allows their Partners (Starbucks speak for employees) a deep dive educational opportunity on all things coffee. How it's grown, roasts, regional/global differences, pairings, acidity and so much more than what you'd ever think about, when you are ordering your latte.

Store managers have to approve candidates. They look for team members that demonstrate a willingness and desire to grow their coffee knowledge, have a positive attitude, good communication skills and is respected by others. All great traits worthy of being recognized.

I have visited what seems like countless Starbucks in my travels, and I have gotten use to asking any partner who is wearing a Black Apron, how they feel about it. In every case there is a sense of pride and confidence that comes with their responses, that typically sound like;

• I love being recognized as an expert
• I feel good when I can help my customers with their coffee questions
• Our company is committed to the knowledge of coffee
• My coworkers come to me with questions

You don't have to be promoted to qualify to be a Coffee Master. If you demonstrate a commitment, desire, and I'm sure a good work history….then you may be on your way to a Black Apron.

For me, this has absolutely nothing to do with coffee or Starbucks. Its more about employee engagement and recognition, brand building, customer service and retention, and being true to your mission.

It reminds me of a line I use in presentations I give; Education... not just Training. Education is the WHY, and Training is the HOW. And the more employees you have that understand the WHY…the more successful you will be (...and this is even more important with the younger, millennial generation today).

For a variety of reason, not everyone can be, or wants to be, a supervisor or manager, where they might be required to learn this information. This is voluntary and builds a tremendous foundation of knowledge about your operation.

My takeaways from the Black Apron?shirt

Recognition: Employees want to be recognized. This is a visible and meaningful way that provides that recognition and real value to company.

Pride: If your employees have pride in the job they do, and in their company, the amount of productivity, contribution and loyalty they will provide is immeasurable.

Bench Strength: This type of accomplishment prepares people for the next advancement opportunity, or whatever upward mobility exists in your organization. It provides a business, consistent operational execution, with employees ready to step up and take on more responsibility.

Revenue: More employees that are better educated, and whom can serve your customers in a manner that exceeds expectations…. will drive higher sales.

Recruiting: When you have a workplace team that takes pride in their job and company, and is recognized for their efforts…. you won't have to work very hard to recruit others. You will become an employer of choice.

So what's your Black Apron. What can you do to create highly educated, energetic and passionate employees around a certain discipline in your business... and then create an awareness and recognition around that? Different uniforms, colored shirts, name tags or other identifier that has them stand out as an expert.

Or... what do you already do? I'd look forward to hearing your success stories, ideas or comments.

All the best.

About The Author

ken whitingKen Whiting is an amusement park and attractions food and beverage operator, and industry consultant for improvements in F&B, retail and workforce productivity. Reach out with any questions or comments you may have at: