The Barista Wage Scale – City Story
July 30, 2021
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This article first appeared on Black-Box’s blog. Check it out!

Ever wondered how much Barista’s are paid, and whether it’s fair? So have we, and this project is an attempt to find out the why, how and what are the differentiating factors between various Barista salaries over South Africa.

Ever wondered how much Barista’s are paid, and whether it’s fair? So have we, and this project is an attempt to find out the why, how and what are the differentiating factors between various Barista salaries over South Africa.

First, some context and credit where it’s due. The Barista Wage Scale was built off the shoulders of giants, from a concept originally created by Open Up, with their #livingWage project. Their concept was effective in its simplicity and accessibility, allowing employers of domestic helpers to calculate an accurate understanding of what to pay their helper, based off living wage statistics in South Africa (how much it costs to live as an average South African). This platform equips an employer to have a constructive dialogue with a domestic helper, by staging a questionnaire that leads one through various inputs of important living wage factors (such as the number of dependants a helper has, what their transport costs are and other primary budgets), resulting in an accurate wage figure at the end of the questionnaire that is contextual to the individual in question.

It was with this concept that Open Cities Lab and The Coffee Magazineapproached us, with the idea to build a tool that would bring transparency to Barista wages in South Africa, and contribute to the industry as a whole in equipping baristas, and help bring regulation and guidance to café owners trying to decide how much to pay their team.

Collectively, we defined our problem statement as:

Baristas are not paid a living wage as a general industry standard.

And our product strategy statement as:

In a country where baristas battle to earn a living wage, we’ve created a tool that provides transparency and empowerment to Baristas and Café Owners to realise a fair and equitable future industry.

UX Design scamping process of the Barista Wage Scale by Black Box
UX Design scamping process

Based off these statements and stakeholder workshops, we set out to deliver upon the following objectives:

  1. Create awareness around the low industry standards
  2. Allow baristas and café owners to establish their context within the industry
  3. Clear data-driven insights to provide proof and transparency
  4. Showcase personal stories to showcase possible solutions
  5. Equip baristas and café owners with actionable information
  6. Provide easy-to-access resources to ensure action is taken to improve the situation

The tool needed to allow baristas to compare their salaries to other baristas, while also allowing café owners to calculate whether they were paying their barista’s a liveable wage. Additionally, we wanted each user to be able to compare their inputs to a national, but currently limited dataset (data being collected on an on-going basis through a national barista survey created by The Coffee Magazine), and for baristas to further equip and inspire themselves with existing successful case studies of other baristas as well as resources to capacitate their careers.

Ultimately, our goal is to provide meaningful insights into the coffee industry, and contribute to developing it from the inside.

The above comparison features are comprehensive, with the ability to compare against multiple skill associated factors, such as years of experience, qualifications, location and hours per week, giving you a good idea of what other baristas are earning relative to their career attributes.

We use Adobe XD for our prototyping and design

From a UX and UI design perspective, we created a seamless flow that allowed a user to instinctively know how to operate the tool and be motivated by its cause. Trust is built by removing cognitive friction in a user’s journey, along with introducing exciting new information at specific points to reinforce the bond between user and tool.

Combined with the resources page, dashboard and case studies, this tool is sitting at a robust MVP (Minimal Viable Product) phase, already equipping baristas and café owners alike. However, the work is not yet done. We need to grow the database to build a more comprehensive dataset and analysis of it. The more the industry knows about this tool, the better for all involved, even if it does bring about some tough conversations.

With over 800 new users already since release (23 March 2021), we‘re excited to see this platform grow into its potential as a tool that catalyses baristas into their potential, and we welcome collaboration and suggestions from the public via our rating tool on the app.

Thanks must go to Humble CoffeeAfrican Roots and Saule Café for their contributions to the design process, to Open Cities Lab and The Coffee Magazine for the great team effort.

For more information on the tool, read this article written by the Coffee Magazine, or checkout this product launch on Instagram Live.


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