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Shop Training: There are Ways to Change from “Thick” to “Thin”

Not long ago my WeChat was full of posts from friends in Hong Kong who had taken the AST examination. After seeing all the excited and radiant smiles, I sincerely congratulate everyone on receiving there certificates.

Whether it be to challenge yourself or to become one of this generation’s famous teachers, participating in this examination will inevitably lead to others seeking advice from you. None will question your theories or concepts because you have received this certificate (yes, sometimes this piece of paper serves this use). 


But is it really that easy to be a model for others? When responsible for training the staff of a café are trainees able to correctly and effectively digest information? After being thoroughly exposed to the various states of training in different stores, my answer is not optimistic.


- Thought-Provoking Cases -

In the SCI curriculum for store managers there is a course specializing in teaching students how to be true training staff. We performed a group exercise which got us to start thinking:

The students were divided into two groups. Each group needed to teach a friend with no experience in making or evaluating coffee, with the goal of reaching a certain training result. Within 60 minutes, each group needed to create a training plan and then teach their friend how to reach their training objectives (is it similar to the store?).

Finally the training objectives of the two groups were as follows: 

The 1st group: Be able to correctly extract an espresso in accordance with the allocated coffee flavor;

The 2nd group: Be able to evaluate an espresso.


Those who have been exposed to coffee will probably have a general feeling regarding the above objectives that extracting an espresso will probably be much easier to teach than how to evaluate an espresso.

This is because for someone who has never been in touch with his or her senses there are simply too many points of knowledge that must be explained and not enough time.

This time, the results were just the opposite: the friend who had learned how to evaluate coffee felt it was clearer and more direct and was very happy to be able to evaluate espressos made by coffeehouses. On the other hand, the other learned how to make an espresso but always felt they were missing something.


All the trainees have received much professional training and skills from different institutions as well as have abundant store experience but the results were nonetheless unexpected.

Why was this? Because the 2nd group found the “way” to train, that is, the way that allows students in a short amount of time to receive the highest level of information absorption. 

- Misunderstandings in Store Training -

Recently I have done training everywhere regarding coffee types, with even more training concerned with management consultation.


I am happy to see that owners and managers of coffeehouses are all starting to pay attention to management issues rather than only blindly studying coffee.

Among them, there are these complaints regarding training:

  • “I’ve reminded them so much! Why do staff continue to make mistakes?”

  • “It should be very clear! Why can’t they grasp it?”

  • “We’ve had lots of training, internal and external, costing the company lots of money but it hasn’t produced results.”

  • “Staff don’t accept my training and keep doing things in the old ways. What can I do?”

To you behind the screen: you may feel you can relate to these experiences or you may feel they are ridiculous.


The above issues are created by many reasons including misunderstandings in store training.

In such misunderstandings store managers will become increasingly exhausted, not physically but mentally. If managers are exhausted, they are unable to inspire others, ultimately creating a vicious cycle.

Training is mutual. When requiring staff to understand trainers and training content, you must also understand how to allow staff to maximally absorb yourself and training content.

- There are Ways to Change from “Thick” to “Thin” -

People are not all identical. Does everyone accept new knowledge uniformly?

The answer is no.

But we do have ways to improve this possibility.


First we need to realize that store training is not the same as pure teaching: it does not emphasize the “why” but rather the “how.”

The goal of any advanced theory is for a better and more effective implementation in practice—for those who operate a coffeehouse, be sure to stay clear-headed. Second, in the change from “thick” to “thin,” “thin” does not really mean “less.” “Thin” or “less” are for staff whereas on the other hand, trainers may become “thick.

Here are a few points worth focusing on in training that require constant attention: 

1) Learn How to Plan and Communicate with Your Staff.

Training is never something that can be done spur of the moment. It also cannot only take place in the mind. It needs a well-written plan.

Before training, please ask yourself a few questions and record your responses:

  1. Training content—what are the objectives?

  2. What methods will be used in training?

  3. What must be prepared and whose cooperation is necessary? 

  4. What are the situations (and even personality traits) of the trainees? How should we communicate? 

  5. What is the method of evaluation?

After formulating the above plan and objectives and before beginning training, you will already have a good grasp of the situation.


Additionally, in the first lesson, you must tell your employees the objectives and content of the training. The more specific the better, because the better trainees can understand what is to come, the better they can prepare themselves for it.

As trainers, we must pay attention to the matter of “psychological suggestion.”

2) Pressurized Repetition, Relatively Relaxed Atmosphere

Let’s talk about the formation of memories.

Memories exist in the human cerebral cortex. The acquisition of memory is related to the inhibition and promotion of synapses in the brain. Once the brain is stimulated, neuronal protuberances will begin to grow on each nerve cell, these connect to synapses. The total amount of connections is what forms memories. Continuous stimulation allows for closer cell-to-cell connections as well as synaptic increase, letting information travel more easily.

Referring to the above theory, we can settle the issue of “why can’t staff remember.”

In daily training, we need a certain type of pressurized repetition to strengthen our memory.

For example, when staff make mistakes in their work, managers need to immediately notify staff and correct them on the spot; during training, speed contests, competition, and other methods should be used to review content. Staff must personally verbalize the important points in the training including evaluation and examination also must be added into the mix.

This is why we encourage others to participate in competitions. Competitions have pressure which forces you to continually pay attention to whether or not one’s own behavior allows you to reach the best result. 


Pressure is a motivating force. 

Friendly Warning: Please do not scare or blindly exert pressure on staff for the above reasons...

This is what I want to discuss in the second part.

Memory needs to be formed under pressure and stimulation but we have done some surveys and discovered that the degree to which staff accept training is dependent on whether or not the atmosphere is relaxed and free. The more relaxed the atmosphere is, the easier training is to accept.

Thus, creation of a proper training atmosphere is also crucial.

3) The Teaching Rhythm of “Eating Less and Having More Meals”

——Why should we change from “thick” to “thin”?

——Because staff can’t bear it!

Too much content is undoubtedly good because rich knowledge can let others feel satisfied. We must, however look to the initial training foothold: the goal of any advanced theory is better and has more effective implementation in practice. If staff can neither bear nor remember things then how much are they really absorbing? 


Because of this, we recommend dividing the training content into “sections,” and then conduct store training with the rhythm of “eating less and having more meals.”

For example, if the training content is about frothing, teaching sections could include:

  1. Theory: knowledge about milk and the principles of its frothing

  2. Liquid height and angle of steam rod

  3. Intake and rotation

  4. Practice with laundry detergent and water (to achieve the fine foam effect)

  5. Practice with milk (be familiar with dry and wet foam)

  6. Arrange a time for evaluation


4) Intentionally Use Some “Incorrect Operations”

We always teach staff the proper way but also overlook the negative consequences of the “incorrect operations” of which staff may be unaware.


For example, in foaming milk you can use incorrect operations to let staff see the poor results; you can use poor service methods to let staff experience feelings of discomfort, etc.

Forward thinking, reverse operations.

In operating a storefront, one will encounter many situations. No trainer can predict all of them. Once, a friend joked and said: Such inexplicable things [are always encountered at the store]. This is normal.

Space in this article is limited but there are many more things I wish I could write about.


Before, I locked myself away in an “ivory tower,” oblivious to the realities of the world. Only after did I emerge for training did I discover the true depths of suffering. However, if there are methods and tools, constant summarizing and a willingness to share, I believe things will only get better and better.

“There is always a way to solve anything”—this must be the attitude of any operator, with mutual encouragement at the foundation.