The Influence of Barista Attire on Perceived Coffee Tastes

I know you won’t believe me, but please allow me to tell you a true story. We were two baristas at the same coffee serving pop-up event. I worked the morning shift and she did the afternoon shift.  The organiser said everything was smooth and the coffee tasted good! I handed over to the barista for the afternoon shift, briefed her on my espresso recipe and tasted her coffee. Cool.

A few hours later, we received some complaints from customers that the coffee tasted awful in the afternoon. They requested only “qualified” baristas should serve coffee there. Now, they are just laymen when it comes to coffee. They have no knowledge of what quality of coffee means. I swear, I double checked her coffee again, and it was hardly different from what I served in the morning.

The Influence of Barista Attire on Perceived Coffee Tastes

So how could they judge the coffee and insist it tasted different? 

First impression is the answer.

That day I was wearing a full barista outfit, while she wore a simple black waitress-style shirt.

Unbelievable, isn’t it?

First Impressions Alter our Judgements

I have no intention of judging any barista on their skills through how they are dressed. And I hope you don’t either. But the painful truth is, your customers do. 

As we all know, first impressions influence us. Psychologists have found that we make judgements about others based on our initial observations. Our taste buds are biased. The brain always tricks us. It makes a judgement even before we actually taste the coffee. I know this sounds unrealistic. But this is how we act all the time.

So, how can a first impression alter how you taste coffee? Attire is the key.

How a Barista Dresses Changes the Perception of Coffee Taste

You cannot deny that when you go into a coffee place, you notice the barista’s attire before you even see if they are smiling at you. Now, you might think this is very superficial, but I am sure you want to get a coffee from a barista who is well-dressed. I am going to explain why.

A well-dressed barista has better energy. Working as a barista and barista trainer, I do find that dressing up gives a higher positivity level and confidence. This will directly link to how a barista serves a coffee, and how confident they are in their brews. Now, before you sip the coffee, your brain pre-judges the coffee in a positive way, by how you are influenced by the barista’s energy.

It projects a professional image. I believe a dress code has its meaning. It is the same thing you would want when you hire a lawyer with a suit and tie. And judges always wear the traditional wig in the court, to show their authority. And these things give you the impression that they are professional. This is no different in cafes. A first impression makes your brain judge before you sip the coffee.

This is all about the confidence game. The barista is more confident in making you a good coffee, and their energy influences you. And you are also confident in what the barista hands to you.

What to Wear?

Here, I must remind you that we are discussing the condition of the FIRST impression. There’s no point to argue that you have professional friends and it doesn’t bother you when you see them in more casual clothes.

And, throughout a day in your cafe, you make a lot of first impressions to your customers. In other words, you have tons of opportunities to make a good first impression to your customers. So, here comes the question: what should a barista wear to make a good impression?

As an opinion, a full barista suit (proper shirt with the vest) is the best. Go on search engines or Pintrest, I am sure you will get tons of good ideas of what a barista should wear to project professionalism.

One very successful business example of a barista making a good impression is with Intelligentsia. This is a US coffee brand that is revered as an emerging benchmark in the industry today. This brand is very celebrated within the industry. Its idea is to offer customers a unique experience in every one of its coffee houses. And this main goal influenced its company policy, down to the barista’s dress code in order to present the best of their brand image.

Win Half the Battle Before the War

You might be wondering why the barista attire sounds so important. It is!

Can you imagine if your customers already “think” the cup of coffee is tasty before they even taste it? You will have won half the battle before the water. Isn’t that a good deal?

Comment and let me know if you have had the same experience!

Vanessa Lee

Vanessa Lee is a Hong Kong based barista trainer, working for The Coffee Academics. She is the founder and blogger of Forbidden project (www.forbiddenbean.com). Her coffee-water relations project has been featured by a local media.

Vanessa Lee has 5 posts and counting. See all posts by Vanessa Lee

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