Need A Barista founders Alex Bray (left) and Tom Gould at Little Henri cafe in Northcote.
Need A Barista founders Alex Bray (left) and Tom Gould at Little Henri cafe in Northcote. Photo: Simon Schluter

Melbourne now has a barista locum service so that cafe patrons do not have to drink a coffee made by ordinary cafe staff, if the usual coffee wizard calls in sick or goes on leave.

Cafes left without a barista at short notice had no way of finding someone to make good coffees, says Need A Barista co-founder Alex Bray.

His business supplies trained and experienced baristas to cafes that cannot bear to be without one for a single shift.

Baristas are available for $24 an hour with a $59 booking fee.
Baristas are available for $24 an hour with a $59 booking fee. Photo: James Brickwood

Just like having a good chef and producing consistently good food, many cafes couldn't afford to be without a decent barista for a day or they risked losing customers, he said.

"The cafes have to have a barista that is on point if they want to succeed," Mr Bray said.

"I don't think it is self-important for a barista to think that their input is important to the success of the cafe."

Baristas make the coffee taste better, says locum service Need A Barista.
Baristas make the coffee taste better, says locum service Need A Barista. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Market testing last year found strong demand for emergency baristas, with an average booking for three shifts.

Most of the bookings were for cafes in Melbourne's CBD, inner north and southern beach-side suburbs.

Need A Barista charges a $59 booking fee and cafes have to pay the barista $24 an hour. Baristas were carefully vetted based on their experience, Mr Bray said.

The company uses an online booking service to match cafes with baristas who were free to work.

Baristas could choose when they work and which areas.

Kate McKenzie, manager of the Ways and Means cafe in central Melbourne, has used the Need a Barista service several times and said it was part of catering to high-end coffee drinkers.

"Melbourne. Coffee. Everyone is pretty fussy," she said.

"I know I am going to get someone that works with specialty coffee and can troubleshoot the grinder and knows their coffee inside out."

Ms McKenzie said she previously she would have to fill in on the coffee machine if a barista called in sick "and then other things would fall apart".