Old Job/Bright Future: Barista

Coffee sommelier, anyone? The Future of Work may have an unusual impact on your morning caffeine routine.

A nurse with all the answers and a bedside manner. An aircraft mechanic with a computer science degree. The Future of Work will mean some big changes to existing jobs, but in many cases humans will remain the critical component. Here is Part 1 of a four-part series.

Do you really a need a human to serve you coffee in the morning? Economist Jeffrey Sachs doesn’t think so. “We will walk in soon to a Starbucks, and our iris will be scanned, and your default mode of mocha latte venti will come out, automatically, of a machine, and you’ll take it out the other door,” he told an audience at George Mason University in 2015. Coffee-serving robots are no longer science fiction, either.

But many other futurists reject the idea that baristas, perky or otherwise, will disappear as a job class. The number of people who appreciate artisan, handmade coffee is going to increase, says Jacob Morgan, author and host of the Future of Work podcast. It’s the fact that each cup of joe is unique, and served with a personal touch, that may actually increase the value of a human coffee server. 

The statistics might even back Morgan up. Despite all the talk about automated servers taking over fast-food jobs, the number of jobs in the food and beverage service sector is expected to be nearly 5.5 million in 2024, a 10 percent increase from a decade earlier, according to the Department of Labor.

“We could see the rise of the super-barista, someone like a sommelier,” Morgan says.