When it comes to speciality coffee ST. ALi are industry pioneers. With a number of stores in Melbourne that includes the Sensory Lab brand, and a move into Jakarta in 2015, ST. ALi has positioned itself as a respected influencer within the coffee scene.

In understanding ST. ALi’s success, we sat down with Amy Smith who shared some valuable insight into her experience working for the group, providing important tips for how the hospitality industry can both attract and retain high quality staff.

Initially taking up work at their flagship store in South Melbourne, Amy has moved between a number of ST. ALi’s stores over the past 3 years, claiming that the skills and knowledge that she has gained over this time is what she has most valued.

“It’s been such an educational experience,” she remarks.

“In South Melbourne I worked with some amazing, high-end baristas who taught me everything about speciality coffee.”

With this knowledge Amy moved to the group’s Sensory Lab store on Little Collins Street where she gained experience in preparation, brew methods and the sales side of coffee.

Now back at their South Melbourne store, Amy reflects on the dynamic skill-set she has developed from working at ST. ALi.

“I’ve stayed with ST. ALi because they’ve taught me so much. I have all this information that I’ve gathered over time about specialities [as well] as connections.”

Asked if she believes she will be working in hospitality all her life, Amy states that the nature of the industry and the wear and tear it has on the body is something workers need to consider.

“I’ve thought about it. But then it was probably about two years in and I was working ridiculous hours each week and then I thought: I don’t think I can do this. When my body breaks down, what am I going to do to support myself?”

Asked about how hospitality venues can best retain their staff, Amy emphasises education and training as important tools that ensure staff remain enthusiastic and engaged.

“I would not be the type of worker I am today if it wasn’t for ST. ALi.”

Culture is therefore fundamental, as Amy states, the group provided a healthy working environment where everyone was on the same level.

“You’re not going to care about your work if you’re not proud of it. I’ve been very proud to work for ST. ALi.”

Amy believes that the easiest way for hospitality venues loose good staff is due to bad rostering practices.

“The first thing that comes to mind is rostering. Some months I would get a roster two days before I was scheduled to work a shift. I feel like a lot of my co-workers feel the same – it’s really frustrating when it’s inconsistent.”

Amy suggests that an optimal approach to rostering would include fortnightly rosters being released at least one week before scheduled shifts.

“Release at the start of the month for two weeks and then after one week release the next two weeks so that you’re always one week ahead.”

Good rostering practices also fall under the broader notion of respect in the workplace and the relationship between employer and employee.

“Not respecting your workers — not going that extra length to see that they’re okay. It can be quite confronting when you haven’t done hospitality before — particularly when you go to a venue and they don’t care about your feelings.”

Amy’s experience with ST. ALi highlights how an organisation’s emphasisis on training and development can greatly influence workforce morale, ensuring a strong culture and high retention of staff.

In providing a recruitment platform for some of Melbourne’s best known hospitality venues, HospoHire recognises how an organisation’s culture is an important consideration when seeking the most appropriate candidate for the job.

That is why we use aptitude tests that not only focus on essential skills but also on personality attributes to ensure that the highest quality candidates are identified. Such a method therefore goes beyond simply screening resumes but analyses culture in a way that ensures long term retention.