Around Oakland, there’s a place on practically every corner to grab a cup before classes — Dunkin, Starbucks, Divvy Coffee and Buns, Saxbys and more. And the baristas who whip up your drink are, more often than not, fellow Pitt students.
These students, who manage school work along with their job as a barista, can be found all around Pitt’s campus, and each has a wide collection of experiences.
Abby Batkhan, a junior communication sciences & disorders major, has worked at the Starbucks at Amos Hall for about eight months. She said she thought being a barista would be a fun experience to try, and enjoys her work shifts.
“I’ve honestly always wanted to work part-time as a barista. I feel like it’s such a cute job and even though I’ve had some not-so-great experiences working in food service I still wanted to try it,” Batkhan said. “I really enjoy my job. My coworkers and manager are great.”
Batkhan’s shifts as a Starbucks rotate between a few different tasks of making drinks, handing out mobile orders and assisting other workers.
“My day usually consists of switching between two to three positions which can include the bar making drinks, calling out drinks and managing mobile orders, register, warming food or restocking things and supporting the baristas,” Batkhan said. “I mostly work on the weekends, which is definitely a less stressful environment than weekdays — Amos hall gets extremely busy on weekdays.”
According to Batkhan, nice customers are fun to interact with daily, but there have been instances where customers try to return the wrong drinks after knowingly picking them up and tasting them.
“My favorite moments are interacting with customers who are kind and respectful. People who give compliments and tips always brighten my day,” Batkhan said. “I’ve been mostly fortunate with my customer interactions, but something I hate is when people pick up a drink that is obviously not theirs, take a sip, and then come complain that it’s not their drink and I have to remake it.”
Bess Goldstein, a junior media and professional communications major, has worked in the food industry since high school. She worked at Divvy Coffee & Buns for five months.
“I’ve worked with food since I was in high school working for my school’s kitchen. I really liked the action of making coffee for myself, others, and just talking to people,” Goldstein said. “Running the cafe in the opening shifts is not easy alone, which would be the case pretty often.”
Goldstein said she had an awkward encounter one day serving a customer early in the morning, who was interested in coffee beans.
“One time this strange man came into the cafe at 7:30 a.m. asking for a cup of just unground coffee beans. My boss said it was fine to sell it just to get him out of the room,” Goldstein said. “But after I sold him the coffee beans, he just sat in the back of the cafe staring at me for my entire shift. He did this while eating the coffee beans out of the cup like it was cereal. It was just a strange moment.”
Out of all the drinks available, Goldstein said oat milk lattes at Divvy are a crowd favorite. She added that she dislikes having to make the blended drinks.
“Honestly, the oat milk iced latte was the most popular, usually with vanilla or caramel. Also the cappuccinos were pretty delicious,” Goldstein said. “I would hate making the blended coffee drinks, because we only had one blender that was broken and it did not blend well.”
Joseph Stuter, a sophomore chemistry major, is a barista at the Dunkin’ location on Centre Avenue. Stuter feels that, although the atmosphere of the food industry can be stressful, he has enjoyed working as a barista so far.
“My experience so far has been a good one. I’ve worked in food service for a while, but it’s still so satisfying to serve people the drinks that they like. Although it can get quite busy and chaotic at times throughout the day, the atmosphere is a positive one,” Stuter said. “I work the middle shift, so most of my day to day is serving drinks and food while keeping everything in good shape for the closing shift.”
There have been many interesting customer ordering experiences during their shifts, including an interaction with a woman with a coffee-drinking “superpower,” according to Stuter.
“An elderly woman downing an extra large cup of coffee in half a minute, then coming back to the counter and ordering another one,” Stuter said. “Fantastic sight to behold, as those cups are huge. Upon further reflection, I’ve concluded that she must have superpowers.”
Working in the service industry is a valuable skill and experience to have, according to Stutler.
“Not just at a coffee shop, but in food service in general. It’s a great way to gain an appreciation of all that goes into getting a cup of coffee, and an excellent way to improve your interpersonal skills while learning how to make cool stuff,” Stuter said. “Impressing your friends with your newfound knowledge is an additional bonus.”
Stuter said he values his job as a barista and loves seeing customers everyday. His favorite tasks are making them their coffees.
“A bit on the nose, but I really do enjoy making coffee. It’s a fun little game of mix and match for me, with the reward being either a happy customer or a happy me, depending on the circumstances,” Stuter said. “I also enjoy interacting with and serving customers, it never gets old! Drinking coffee is a daily routine for so many people, so why not make it a good time?”
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