Behind the Brew: Perception from the Perk Baristas
The campus-wide attraction for a jolt of caffeine to survive the day, how does the Perk appear from behind the counter? What are employees noticing about this campus from their brewing perspective?
Photo by: Chelsea Gammon
The wafting aroma of robust coffee beans, the whirl of blenders and the blast of frothing milk – these are classic senses found inside the Perk.
As you look around, students are busily engrossed on laptops, gathered for meetings or simply relaxing between classes.
Laughter, clicking keyboards and a welcoming fireplace greet you as you walk inside. The Perk fulfills many functions: the study space, the commuter hangout, the relaxation sanctuary and the Skype spot.
If this is the Perk that students experience, how does the Perk appear from the other side of the counter?
What is the Perk staff noticing about the students and faculty of MBU? What is behind the brew?
The Perk never fails to allow students to relax or study in a calm environment.
In the midst of a packed schedule or finals week, how do students treat the Perk staff? How does stress affect the Perk employees?
Josh Sandoval, employee of the Perk for almost two semesters, said he believes the Perk serves as a getaway from the stress of classes.
“They’re happier to see us when they’re stressed because we are the ones helping them out – giving them caffeine,” he said.
Jake Gillespie, who managed the Perk last year, said he notices two basic trends regarding stress in students and employees.
“Regarding customers, people seem either relieved to be here or completely agitated. You can tell when people are thrilled to be receiving their coffee break,” he said. “In other cases, people will throw their credit cards across the counter. As far as the staff is concerned, if we are all stressed at the same time we are able to bond together like a big family.”
Justin Hannel, a recent employee of the Perk, claims that personal connections with students make it simple to spot stress.
“If I know someone, I can tell if they are stressed,” Hannel said.
According to Lauren Prichard, an employee of the Perk for almost two years, interactions with regular customers allow her to notice students dealing with stress.
“Because you get the same customers every day, you can tell when they are stressed,” she said.
An employee of the Perk for almost three years, Josh Smith said he noticed that most people treat the Perk staff well during times of stress.
“Usually we are the relief for study breaks and coffee,” said Smith, who has since graduated.
Since the Perk is such a constant hub of activity, it offers a myriad of exciting opportunities for the staff, with each day offering new faces, new products and new events.
What have been some of the most exciting experiences for the Perk staff?
Sandoval told of an exhilarating time where an unanticipated rush changed the pace of the day.
“It was just Lauren Prichard and I in the Perk. We were expecting to be pretty slow for the remainder of the day. Suddenly 20 people came in at the same time,” Sandoval said. “We handled that rush together. It was quite the adrenaline rush. We were jumping up and down and giving each other high fives after it was over.”
Gillespie said he was excited by the entire experience of working for the Perk.
“I love engaging with employees, working alongside them. It feels like a big family. Everyone at Mobap – the staff, faculty and everyone else – is very willing to help me out. The Perk is one of the best places I’ve ever worked,” Gillespie said. “I think it goes back to the morality of the people.”
Hannel said he enjoys working with fellow students.
“One of the most exciting experiences I’ve had since working here is just getting to know my fellow co-workers on a deeper emotional level,” he said.
Prichard was thrilled to win the Christmas drink competition two years ago.
“I was so excited to win the Christmas drink competition for the Gingerbread Man Frappe,” she said.
Smith added that he enjoys serving large groups of customers, especially during special events.
“One of my most exciting moments has been working special events like Open Mic Night when there are a lot of people,” he said.
The Perk offers exciting experiences for the staff but it also poses some fascinating surprises. The inner workings of the Perk and its staff are revealed in the responses of four employees.
Sandoval shared his surprise about the popularity of molto drinks, which are the largest size.
“Nobody really needs a molto of anything. Since coffee is such a strong diuretic, I just wonder if people really need that much,” he said. “I guess I’m wondering if people are really appreciating the quality of coffee if they order that large of a serving.”
Gillespie encountered several surprises throughout his time at the Perk.
“It amazes me how people crave the sweetest drinks. It blows my mind. In the past, people desired strong coffee – rich espresso with a hint of creamer. Now, people are searching for the sweetest coffee drink they can purchase,” Gillespie said.
He added that the increasing popularity of the Perk has brought both blessings and challenges.
“The Perk is also much busier than I expected. This makes the store difficult to run smoothly and efficiently,” he said. “I am working to give the Perk more of a coffeehouse vibe than that of a Mom and Pop store.”
Hannel referred to customers’ predictability as one of his greatest surprises.
“You can tell a lot about a person by the coffee they drink,” Hannel said.
Prichard was surprised by the number of people she has met and comes in contact with by working at the Perk.
“It is surprising how many people you know. They see you working every day and then later they see you in class. You meet more people than you would expect,” Prichard said.
Lessons about people often prove to be the most valuable skills we carry through life. What unique insights have the Perk employees learned about people through their experiences at the campus coffeehouse?
Sandoval said he has learned to acquire more patience for both himself and others.
“I’ve learned to be patient with myself. It takes time to learn how to make the drinks. I also learned to develop patience with people, especially those who don’t understand coffee well,” he said.
Gillespie said he has learned two main lessons about people while working at the Perk.
“There is a large divide between the art and sports people. Right now, I am trying to develop ways to mesh the two sectors together. Besides the divide, there is a definite family feeling on either side,” he said.
“I am also learning to work with students as employees. In the past, I managed five coffeehouses which were either independent or corporate, like Starbucks. I am learning that for the Perk employees, work comes second, school comes first.”
Hannel has observed that people enjoy their comfort zones.
“People don’t like getting out of their comfort zones. That applies to both coffee and sitting areas,” he said.
Prichard expressed a similar observation.
“We’re creatures of habit. People walk in the door and before they even order we know exactly what they want,” she said.
Smith offered a profound insight about people.
“As long as you’re willing to accommodate others, they will accommodate you,” he said.
If students take anything away from the insight of these Perk employees, they should branch out of their comfort zones – or at least try a cappuccino.