My Experience Working at Independent vs. Chain Coffee Shops

Hey! So, today’s post is going to be a little different than my regular reviews, but as they say, variety is the spice of life, so let’s do this thing! Before I get into the post, I originally planned to use this idea for an episode (or two) of my yet to be released podcast (look for that dropping next month). Anyway, please enjoy my thoughts below along with an embarrassing picture or two.

Photo credit: House of James (Facebook)

So, my first foray into the coffee industry was into an independent shop when I was basically fresh out of high school. I spent ~3 years there doing just about every job there is to do in a coffee shop. Overall, I really enjoyed my time here and learned a ton. This was my first consistent exposure to coffee outside of Starbucks et al. and for that, I’m grateful. I learned a lot about what makes a good latte or cappuccino. It was here that I first learned about picking tasting notes out of different roasts and began experimenting with different drinks and ratios. This shop also had a much more relaxed vibe to it compared to my experience at a chain store. Thus, I had ample opportunity to connect in meaningful ways to the regulars that frequented the establishment. Being the people person I am, this was a very enjoyable time for me. I got to know not only people’s names and orders, but all sorts of interesting things about them- their younger lives (the shop had an older crowd scene), their families, their shenanigans. Getting close to these people also meant supporting them. Celebrating the highs and mourning the lows. The connections you can create working at an independent shop just can’t be paralleled at chain shops. It was definitely one of my major highlights from working there.

Following my stint there, I spent a further 3.5 years working at a chain shop that rhymes with ‘Jarducks’. Now, there were definitely some perks working in such an environment. For a near minimum-wage job, they had a fantastic benefits package. I also liked the hours better here, and there were a few different ‘freebies’ that were nice too. Here I also met a lot of great people and made some solid connections, however, since this location was busier than the independent shop, interactions were usually cut a lot shorter, making it tougher to make those deeper connections. One of my favourite things about working here was the added responsibility I had here. I trained quite a few people which was generally a good time. I also really enjoyed cold winter mornings after a snowfall. We were always quiet to start, so we had time to kick back and enjoy a flat white.

In both of these jobs, I worked with a TON of amazing individuals, many of which I’m still proud to call friends to this day. Even though I can’t give a shout-out to everyone here, you all made the long days that much more bearable. Throughout both jobs, I grew a lot as a person and learned a ton about both myself, and coffee as a whole. It’s safe to say that if I had worked different jobs those 6.5 years, I would not be the person I am today. For that, I am forever thankful to both shops I worked at!

Until next time, cheers!


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