Welcome Claire to Coffee Snobs! Glad it has been helpful to you so far. I hope youre in for the long haul because even though it seems frustrating and you despair of your bosses now, you can certainly go on to bigger and better things in this industry! If you have the drive and determination.
Ive read your post and sympathise with you. I think that youll gradually come to realise that it is actually a minority of the current population that appreciate great coffee, though that is slowly beginning to change, I feel.
I think probably the best advice I can think to give you at the moment is: Have patience. I think you also need to keep reminding yourself that there is nothing wrong in giving the customer what they want. If they want half a cup of water with a bit of cold milk tossed over the top, give it to them. If they want a correctly timed and poured espresso shot, give that to them.
As much as I hate having to make an instant coffee, I still do it. I may mutter under my breath about it but I also have come to the rather painful conclusion that the customers who come in regularly every Wednesday for their mug of instant cuppaccino pay the same price as those who get a beautifully timed shot with perfectly steamed milk! Yes, its true, most of the time they are getting the same for the same money. And if your boss decides to do the nice thing and give seniors rates or uniform rates or whatever, you still need to give the customer what they want. We are in a Service industry and I think at times it is easy to forget that. I believe that as a "maker of coffee" my job is to help make someones day. If it means burning the crap out of the milk because they like it so hot they cant taste anything, so be it. Theyre handing over the money which goes towards paying my wage after all! ;)
Anyway, stick with it Claire. I know it seems frustrating. Soon, you will find yourself building a following of like minded coffee fans who will in the end be the ones who sway your bossess thinking. It has happened with mine and they still cant figure out how I can get that perfect cup and they cant! We all know here its no magic trick, but having a passion and a method and an enjoyment for the results goes a long way towards that perfect cup!
Im still a newbie in the industry myself but have been a long time sitter on the other side of the fence. (And I do have a background in catering too) I would consider it a pleasure to help you out anyway I can and if you want more info from me, I invite you to use the email address you see in my sig to contact me or just use the PM feature of the site. Of course, I am confident you will also find many others here who will offer the same!