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June 25, 2024

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Two ill-mannered cases within a day: What’s wrong with Manner Coffee?

Last week, two violent cases of baristas assaulting customers within a day pushed Manner Coffee to the forefront of public opinion.

Footage from surveillance cameras showed that in two different franchises of Manner Coffee in Shanghai, a male barista and a woman one assaulted customers, the former came out of the counter and slapped a customer, and the latter threw a can of ground coffee at a customer’s face.

Manner Coffee has apologized to the public, saying that the company will “further train employees to give consumers better services” and “give more care and attention to employees” to avoid similar incidents in the future.

Despite that the two cases showing direct rights infringement of customers, netizens somehow showed great compassion toward the baristas, believing they had broken down because of accumulated pressure.

Comments such as “The customers were being rude,” “The stall had only one barista which is crazy,” “Don’t rile laborers up because you don’t know what they’ve experienced” flooded various social media platforms, such as Weibo and Xiaohongshu (Red).

Without details being disclosed it’s hard to judge who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong, but we have to ask: Is this mere coincidence that both incidents occurred at Manner Coffee cafes within a day?

The answer is probably more complicated than expected.

Established in Shanghai in 2015, Manner Coffee often promotes their “affordable boutique coffee,” with prices ranging from only 15 yuan (US$2.07) to 30 yuan. The brand has opened up more than 1,215 franchises in 58 cities in China. It is also known for a 5 yuan deduction for each cup of coffee if patrons bring their own mugs.

However, behind the fast expansion is a labor shortage that has been a long-term complaint from both baristas and patrons. It is reported that Manner Coffee distributes baristas according to a franchise’s daily sales — those whose sales are under 5,000 yuan a day has only one staff while there are two for those above 6,000 yuan a day.

The single staffer has to do all the work from making coffee, taking orders, packaging takeouts to cleaning and replenishing.

On Xiaohongshu, posts complaining about working at Manner Coffee started even before the assaults.

A netizen whose screen name is “I often dram of you” wrote a post last Wednesday that people should think twice before applying for Manner Coffee’s barista jobs.

“They told me to work eight hours a day, weekends off, but actually it’s common to work for 10 hours a day, six days a week,” she said. “If you work for a franchise that has outdoor seats then congratulations! You have to go collecting trash once every 10 minutes or the surveillance camera will find you.”

Extremely busy baristas have ruined costumer experience, especially during peak times. On Dianping, one of the major customer review websites in China, many customers shared their experiences with Manner Coffee that “Drinks are very slow, and baristas work like robots with very stern faces.”

Hence it’s fairly safe to say that the assault incidents are single cases, but inevitable.

When a newly rising company seeks profits and expansion, it can’t eye only figures on the books but a healthy route of development that benefits the company, its employees and its customers.

Service personnel are human being with emotions. One can order them 100 times to treat customers like gods, but nothing works better than a comfortable environment, a decent payment and proper workloads.

A Henan Province-based supermarket chain Pang Dong Lai could probably give Manner Coffee a lesson. Having more than 7,000 employees around the country, the company not only gives its staff annual leave of 30 to 40 days, but also an “unhappy leave” of at most 10 days.

In February, an employee of its food corner tried some food he was cooking and didn’t wash the chopsticks he used before putting them into the pot, causing concern on food safety. Pang Dong Lai issued a 13-page report explaining the incident and removed the employee from the food corner — but he got a second chance at another position and was able to continue working for the company.

The result? Not only the Pang Dong Lai supermarket franchises are always packed with customers, the city of Xuchang, which is home to its headquarters, has become a scenic spot. According to Xuchang tourism authorities, this year during the New Year’s Day holiday, seven Pang Dong Lai franchises in Xuchang received more than 1 million customers, among whom 75 percent were tourists.

Happy employees, happy costumers, and then better businesses. It’s not rocket science, and surely Manner Coffee can understand. And let’s wait and see whether it can do what it has claimed in the statement.


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