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November | December 2020


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IN CREATING AND TWEAKING our criteria for our annual Roaster of the Year award, we seek to reveal the best roasting companies in our industry. Our questions invite applicants to share many facets of their business practices, including their contribution to the industry, sustainability, roasting practices, and commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity. As always, this year’s finalists shone across all categories—and, of course, because we send the finalists’ samples to independent judges for blind cuppings, their coffee must be as stellar as their business practices.

I can’t be sure if this year’s applicants were any different from past years, or if this challenging year has me thinking more about the human element of our business, but one area that stood out this year was our finalists’ commitment to their employees. In tangible ways, each company treats its employees from a “heart-driven” perspective (thank you, Little Waves Coffee Roasters, for one of my new favorite terms).

In addition to a commitment to paying their employees living wages and providing health insurance for full-time employees, our finalists supplied numerous examples of employee empowerment. Tony’s Coffee offers an open-book management practice with profit sharing tied to transparent financial goals. Thread Coffee Roasters, an employee cooperative, fixes wage ratios between the highest- and lowest-paid employees; and Little Waves Coffee Roasters presents a transparent wage structure. These businesses offer strong incentives for employees to invest in the company’s success.

Although these practices look great on an award application, what’s the real payoff for these companies? First, it takes an astonishing amount of resources to find, hire and train new employees. Multiple surveys show that companies invest thousands of dollars for each new employee, not including the time lost in the process. Practices that retain and promote employees internally save money. Second, as we have seen during the pandemic, cross-trained employees can be quickly redirected from retail to production and back to retail. This enables companies to bounce back faster than the competition as business picks up. Additionally, employee-centered policies encourage employee input and a focus on the greater good of the community (aptly named Greater Goods Coffee Company is a prime example of this outlook). When employees feel heard and valued, it has a direct impact on team unity and morale.

Take inspiration from, adapt and use the examples from our winners, who are outlined in this issue. You will discover how capable employees, when given responsibility and accountability, will reward themselves and the business with sustainable and resilient growth.

Once again, congratulations to all our applicants, finalists and winners.

  • Macro winner: Tony’s Coffee
  • Micro winner: Greater Goods Coffee Company
  • Runners-up: Barrie House Coffee Roasters (Macro), Colectivo Coffee (Macro), Little Waves Coffee Roasters (Micro), Thread Coffee Roasters (Micro)
Warmest Wishes,

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