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Rachel Gonta – Starbucks Store Manager

By Admin | January 16, 2008

Rachel Gonta is the manager of the flagship Philadelphia Starbucks store located at the corner of 16th and Walnut Streets in Center City. We recently had a chance to meet with and get her thoughts.

Where are you from?


Where did you go to college and what was your academic major?

Temple University B.S. in Tourism and Hospitality Management.

What was your career path from college to being a manager at a Starbucks?

I actually worked for Marriott for five years. I started in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott as a food and beverage intern.

After that I was offered a full time position as a food and beverage supervisor. I ran three bars in the hotel, and eventually traveled with the company to Long Island New York where I was a front desk supervisor for a year.

After spending a Year in New York, I moved back to The Philadelphia Downtown Marriott as a guest relations supervisor.

When I moved back to Philadelphia I actually started a Masters Degree in Education at Holy Family University. I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to do something outside of the hotel industry since I went right into it after college.

I visited the Starbucks in my hotel on a daily basis and I just loved the vibe and the people all seemed to be so happy. I talked to the store manager a few times, and finally she talked me into applying.

I have now been with the company for a little over two years and I love it. The company has a great mission and provides some outstanding growth opportunities for their employees.

Your store is a really busy place with a constant stream of customers. Do you have an ownership stake in your store or are you a straight salaried employee or do you get bonuses based on your sales?

Our location at 16th and Walnut is an extremely happening place. We are actually the first Starbucks location that was opened in the city a little over ten years ago.

Being located in the shopping district does keep us busy, but my team wouldn’t have it any other way. We enjoy the bustle of the city and like the idea that we can provide a great place for our fellow Philadelphians to hang out and grab a great beverage.

As a Starbucks employee we are actually referred to as “Partners”, but the store is corporately owned.

All Starbucks employees that work a minimum of 20 hours a week are eligible to receive stock grants and the ability to purchase more stock at a discount, thus, being a partner in the success of the company.

However, each Store Manager is given the flexibility to bring their own talents to the company. We stay individualized while keeping our quality consistent.

Would you like to move up in the company hierarchy at Starbucks?

At this time I wouldn’t have my career path take any other route. I love the company and I love what I do every day.

I would like to eventually become a Regional Training Manager or a District Manager. I enjoy working so close with people and I love the training aspect. I feel at home with this company.

As a manager, what qualities do you look for in an employee?

The qualities that are most important to me are people who are outgoing, friendly, honest and of course those that have a strong work ethic.

Starbucks is a fun place to work, but we do work. I try to create an environment that will keep my team happy. If your team is happy then they work harder and they keep your customers comfortable and happy as well.

What is the biggest “disaster” you have had in your store that you have had to deal with as a manager?

I haven’t had to deal with anything too major yet. Plus, if I did I have great partners just around the corner from me.

What is the most popular coffee flavor or drink you sell?

We do sell a lot of Lattes, but it also depends what time of year it is.

During the holidays our number one seller was the peppermint white mocha, but starting in the New Year, we will help our customers stick to their resolutions with the new ‘skinny’ beverage offerings.

This will feature 12-oz. beverages – in Starbucks language that is a “tall” – with only 90 calories. We will also be debuting new sugar free Mocha syrup.

What is the most popular pastry or croissant you sell?

Our most popular pastry at the 16th and Walnut location is the Lemon Loaf or the Reduced Fat Banana Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake, but the popular pastry’s change from location to location.

Where do you get your pastries from? Are they baked locally or in regional Starbucks’s bakeries?

Our food department develops proprietary recipes for our food offerings and they are produced at a number of regional bakeries on our behalf.

They also work with our local team to develop regional items and all items are delivered to us daily. Our offerings range from your favorite muffin or coffeecake to a warm toasted reduced-fat turkey bacon and egg breakfast sandwich or low-fat turkey and swiss sandwich.

How many hours a week do you work? What is your typical workday? Do you work weekends?

I average 40 hours a week. I normally work five eight hour days and that does include some weekends, but Starbucks believes in quality of life so I really do have a life outside of work. I actually just had my first baby and the company was extremely flexible around my needs. Working here has made the transition into motherhood very easy.

How many Starbucks coffees do you drink in a week?

A lot! We do get free beverages while we are working and I think I average about 3 or 4 a day! That is a lot of coffee!

How many Starbucks shops are in your region? How does business at your store compare to the other Starbucks stores around?

There are approximately 150 stores in Pennsylvania. Each store has a unique business based on the customers and community it serves. Our business serves the Center City resident, shopper, and financial district employee.

Other stores in other communities may serve the student as a place to study or for families to gather and enjoy each others’ company. At Starbucks, we strive to be where our customers would like us to be, and we look forward to being a part of their daily lives.

The opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the person being interviewed and are not attributable to DailyInterview.com or the editors.

Copyright 2008 DailyInterview.com

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