Cafe Worker Kaimahi Toa Kawhe

Cafe workers prepare, serve and sell food and drinks to customers at delicatessens, cafes, canteens and takeaway bars.

Cafe workers may do some or all of the following:

  • prepare foods such as salads, sandwiches, baked goods and meat
  • ensure food is fresh and kept at a safe temperature
  • prepare coffee beans and use a coffee machine to make coffee
  • make hot and cold drinks such as tea or juice
  • take orders, serve customers and answer their questions
  • weigh, price and pack food
  • clear tables, wash dishes and clean and stock food cabinets
  • manage the till
  • order food from suppliers
  • supervise other staff and organise work rosters.

To specialise as a barista, you usually train on the job. Some employers may offer the opportunity to gain barista skills through short courses at Te Pūkenga or private training providers.

Physical Requirements

Cafe workers need to be fit and healthy as they are on their feet for long periods.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for cafe workers includes:

  • customer service
  • cooking and baking
  • food packaging and preparation experience.

Personal Qualities

Cafe workers need to be:

  • friendly, helpful and polite
  • quick and efficient
  • honest and reliable
  • good at customer service
  • good at remembering orders
  • able to communicate clearly
  • able to take instructions well, and work well in a team
  • accurate, with an eye for detail
  • able to work well under pressure.


Cafe workers need to have knowledge of:

  • the foods they sell, and how to prepare this food
  • food hygiene and safety regulations, and how to judge if food is fresh
  • basic maths skills for weighing food and calculating ingredient quantities
  • how to use a coffee machine.

Depending on where they work, cafe workers may also need to know about specialty foods.


Cafe workers:

  • may work regular business hours or do shift work, including evenings and weekends
  • work in cafes, canteens, delicatessens and takeaway bars.

Subject Recommendations

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a cafe worker. However, home economics (food and nutrition), maths and English to NCEA Level 1 are useful.

For Year 11 to 13 learners, trades academies and the STAR and Gateway programmes are good ways to gain relevant experience and skills.

These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.

Cafe Workers can earn around $23-$30 per hour.

Pay for cafe workers varies depending on where they work and their duties.

  • Cafe workers usually earn between minimum wage and $30 an hour.

Sources: research; and Restaurant Association of New Zealand, '2023 Restaurant Association Remuneration Survey', 2023.

Cafe workers may progress to work as a bartender or waiter/waitress, or move into management or supervisor roles.

Cafe workers can specialise as baristas.

Baristas prepare and serve coffee, and other hot and cold beverages. They know different coffee types, how to use coffee machines to extract coffee from beans and also know how to create latte art.

Years Of Training

There are no specific entry requirements to become a cafe worker as skills are gained on the job.

You may be able to complete the New Zealand Certificate in Food and Beverages - Cafe Strand (Level 3) while working, or attend courses on customer service, food handling and hygiene.

You may be able to complete an apprenticeship and gain a New Zealand Certificate in Food and Beverage (Level 3 or 4) or a New Zealand Certificate in Catering Services (Level 3 or 4). ServiceIQ oversees hospitality apprenticeships.

Cafe Worker