Shuttering the first suburban branch of your local coffee chain in its first year: a How-To for management
Encourage your new employees to ditch high school to help install fixtures before opening day. Offer no protective gear or end-time for the work.
If you happen to be a male-salaried employee in charge of something other than suburban management, point out that you can see a female employee’s bare shoulders in the cap-sleeved shirt she wore because she hasn’t had time to do laundry. Point out, too, that you’re not her boss or anything. That statement will alleviate any tension.
Otherwise, you should stick to pushing espresso-based specialty drinks while insisting, simultaneously, that this coffee chain wants to encourage its customers to shift from sugary flavoured drinks to black pourover coffee. Purity culture makes for a hip corporate culture.
If you are indeed a suburban manager, fail to notice how seriously teenage boys take the gendered division of labour. Don’t intervene or re-delegate tasks when male workers hog the cool-ass espresso bar, leaving their less-dudely peers rushing to grab cash or to clean messes. Commit to hiring more men to "even things out," because there are too many women and femme-of-centre employees in low-wage, customer-facing work.
Use the open-concept back room to verbally abuse employees, as well as to store products. When, inevitably, other workers head into the back to retrieve extra milk, shout at them for interrupting your private conversation. Conduct private conversations using your outside voice.
Hire someone who, on the shop floor, makes racially-charged comments about Muhammad Ali and describes Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s face as “bitchy.” Raise an eyebrow only when she insists on taking leftover food to share with street folks downtown “because they might spend monetary donations on drugs.” Your store pays good money for those branded bags and sheets of wax paper. It’s not about her patronizing attitude toward people experiencing homelessness, it’s about her misuse of company resources!
Maybe begin the discussions with upper management about the shop’s sales and future at this point. Who fucking knows?
When you inevitably fire that one employee (for putting espresso in a kid’s hot chocolate, as it turns out), do so over a table at the Kentucky Fried Chicken across the parking lot. Don’t buy any of their garbage unhealthy food, though, obviously.
Maybe you’re a district manager, and you don’t like the way your suburban manager is running the circus. Pressure that manager into resigning. Eulogize her ‘Brazilian flare’ in the email announcing her departure. Never mind that there’s something a little tragic about forcing out of work an immigrant from the world’s most important coffee-producing nation—Latina women are spicy! Two shots make a large latte, and two wrongs make a right.
When Thanksgiving rolls around, count on your corporate model—to wit, banking on your employees’ economic desperation and general disenfranchisement preventing them from celebrating familial ties, wholesome food, and state-sanctioned genocide—to ensure shift coverage.
It’s rebranding time! People are sick of that tired gay pride flag. Redeploy the rainbow in a promotional image featuring a spread of your bottled fruit and vegetable juices, neatly arranged by colour. Cite the ‘detoxifying’ qualities of these juices on their minimalist packaging. Your coffeehouse is like a safe space for the colon!
While you’re at it, stick up a sign that quotes, and awkwardly, from the refrain to “Umbrella” by Rihanna. The white buying public has mostly forgotten about the shelved “Good Hood” coffee, as well as the incident wherein a Somali immigrant experiencing mental illness was beaten to death by police after staff at one of your locations called them. Don’t feel that addressing the lacuna in your corporate policy concerning front-line staff’s engagement with vulnerable populations will begin any sort of resolution. Grief counselors and your owner’s bombastic poetry, in the Mary Robinson tradition, will accomplish as much.
If you’re a manager who’s just been transferred to the boonies, berate your shift leader, because it’s somehow her fault that you messed up the soy milk order and forgot to warm a girl’s croissant, after a forced moment of silence for white people on November 11. Remembrance Day is a federal holiday, and you can bet your ass that every civil servant will have the day off to spend at a coffee shop. Yelling at an underling (and neglecting, for a second time, to warm the croissant) is best done in a crowded space. Go into the back room to talk shit with your favourite employee.
As with Thanksgiving, expect that buying up queer or otherwise disenfranchised lifetimes will keep the store afloat during the Hanukkah and Christmas period, when time-off is in high demand.
Give the favourite employee weekends off to work her other job—but why do the kids all seem to need those?—and let her keep those busy weekends off when she quits that second restaurant job on the spot one night. (Yeah, it’s awkward when employees from the Italian restaurant show up for what they, in their expert opinion, deem the best espresso in town. Oh, well.) She wants to spend more time with her live-in boyfriend. So too do the couples who rush your café for a makeshift brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Coffee shop employees are unhappy with the amount of money they earn relative to the amount of work they do. You could dial back the feel-good rhetoric about fair treatment for workers at every link on the coffee production chain, so that your combination of low pay and lack of health or dental benefits for wage-earning employees feels like less of a blow, or you could rejig the supervisory hierarchy. Do the latter, and hire new workers to perform supervisory duties in lieu of promoting your existing shift leaders and raising their pay. Fuck promoting from within. Fire from within.
Announce at a staff meeting that you’re happy Trump will become president. Remind workers that their criticising your preference for Trump (that is, their making jokes belittling Trump) would create a hostile work environment. It’s like Abdirahman Abdi’s death all over again, and you’re still the victim!
If you are the favourite employee, write “POSITIVE VIBES ONLY” after someone drew a sad face on the calendar square for inauguration day.
If you are the loose-cannon employee, acquiesce to that demand by drawing a happy face on the calendar square for the Women’s March.
Hire a new employee. Three weeks into his tenure, drop that bombshell about closing the store. Palliate this news by offering workers the chance to relocate to another branch, and only for the cost of a bus pass or—in the case of those who live in rural areas outside the transit service area and/or who are expected to work early morning shifts—a car!
If you are the company’s owner, stop by and mingle with the customers to tell them that the location will be shut down. Get in the way of toasts and coffees, but read no poetry this time.
As with the store’s opening, ask employees to stay late to help dismantle the store, so that everything can be shipped to a new shop to be opened shortly in the concourse of an office building just a few blocks north of another, older location. They’ll do it, because they need the money. Half of them won’t be relocating. Buy everyone burritos from a fast-casual restaurant.
If you’re in HR, make sure that the folks who declined to relocate receive records of employment indicating that they resigned. Save your millionaire owner the stress of a handful of EI payments on top of a store closure.