The coffee industry is under siege, make no mistake. Some of us might not have noticed the direct effect that this worldwide pandemic has had on the hospitality and coffee industry, but folks, it’s no laughing matter.
On the face of it, the price of coffee has gone up. This might not seem like a big deal. Perhaps you have to cut the amount of coffee you buy out every week by a bit. If you look at it from a positive perspective, it is a good opportunity to improve your home brewing game. As an aside if you are on the home-brewing train, I suggest you check out Coffee Brewing Methods for definitive and easy-to-use coffee brewing guides.
But what is really going on here? Why is coffee suddenly so expensive, and what does that mean for the industry that we all take for granted?
Why Has the Price of Coffee Gone Up?
Coffee prices have recently soured for several reasons, but chief among them is the pandemic. If you are following the news, you might have seen that the hospitality industry is suffering most of all in the job market.
This is because cafes and restaurants are struggling to find staff to work. Being a server or barista is a labour-intensive job. What is more, servers are typically paid very little. This wage imbalance has gone unchecked for some time. After the extended lockdown break, career servers have become accustomed to a better quality of life, without having to work so hard for their money.
This means that cafes are having to pay servers more in order to get them to come back to work. Covering the cost of higher wages has to come from somewhere, so the price of coffee and food is going up.
Other reasons have also affected the price of coffee this past year, such as scarcity and poor crop yield. Coffee lovers are therefore experiencing the most expensive coffee prices in their lifetime.
So what can we do?
How Can Business Owners Deal With This Coffee Problem?
I can speak with some authority on this issue, because my parents own and run a cafe. They have had to deal with staff leaving, demanding higher wages or specific working hours, or just outright refusing to work. After all, until recently the government was paying their staff almost as much to stay at home and do nothing. Post-pandemic life has been very difficult for all restaurant owners.
In most cases, my folks have been able to find a solution to the problem by having open conversations with their employees. They have, of course, raised the staff wages. That is the economy we are in and a fact of life business owners must now accept: if they want to keep their staff, they will have to pay them a fair wage.
Most of the time, the problem seems to be that servers are just afraid to go back to work. This is understandable – the first shift back after a break is hard! I experienced this when I was between coffee jobs. We have to redevelop working fitness. For this reason, business owners should try and gradually reintroduce their staff to the working environment, by starting slow and working up. This might mean putting extra staff on the floor in the short term. This will lead to a happier workforce, which is ultimately going to be better for business.
How Can Employees Deal With This Coffee Crisis?
It is quite a monumental period in history for servers. For the first time ever, waiting staff are being paid similar wages to other equivalent blue-collar professions.
However, abusing this fact will lead to coffee workers being burned. The fact is, the government has stopped handing out free money. From now on, we are all going to have to work for our living, in one way or another.
I know it is scary getting back into it. I recommend a band aid approach, for servers who are putting off the inevitable return to work. Rip it off and dive back in. At the moment all businesses are hiring, and they are paying well. If servers act now, they can find a job they really want, and work for a better wage than ever before. On the other hand, if they put off going back to work further, they might miss the boat and this golden opportunity in the hospitality industry. Apart from anything else, there are so many positive aspects to being back in a work environment. Going back to work means connection and relationships with other humans. Having a place to go to work is extremely important for the human psyche. When we work we feel so much more fulfilled in life.
Finally, What Can We Do as Coffee Drinkers?
As coffee drinkers, I feel we have a huge responsibility to support our local coffee shops, now more than ever. Keep buying coffee out when you can. Take it a step further and buy local, speciality, retail coffee to make at home. A bag of coffee at your local cafe might be a few dollars more than at the mall, but it really is worth it. If we don’t continue to patronize our favorite local coffee shops when money is a little tight, they might not still be around when we decide we actually need a decent cup of coffee again!