Monday, July 11, 2016

Twenty Tips From a Former Starbucks Barista

I've had this post in my drafts for a while and always got a bit of writers block. With the recent surge of colored drinks, I've decided to finally write this post. Y'all need to stop with this craziness. I don't even work at Starbz anymore and I know. Being a barista in and of itself is hard enough. Then being a barista that is associated with a brand and a popular social image...that's a whole nother thing. I've never worked as a barista anywhere else so I can't speak for them but I'm sure some if not most of these frustrations cross over. There have been many "Confessions of a Starbucks Barista" but this is first hand: not the Cosmopolitan or People article bs. If you're a customer, next time you visit you'll know what to do!

1. We are very clean.
Or at least we should be. Starbucks hires an outside food standards company, so while average food handlers have to meet an 80 on a scale of 100 for food standards, all Starbucks' must be up to a 90 score par. Our water is triple filtered, we have a sanitizer in the back room (which we will get to next), and Ecosure (the hired food standards company) can show up at literally any moment multiple times throughout the year. No one wants Ecosure to show up. So even if it looks a bit messy behind the counter (spills or crumbs or whatnot) we'll have it cleaned up the second we have the time to clean it up.

2. We probably do not have it in the back.
Depending on your store, if we say we don't have it, we probably don't have it. Employees restock the cold case and stands in the front throughout the day and honestly, our back rooms just aren't that big. There's room for washing dishes, two large fridges for milk, some racks, and table with a computer to clock in on, and...some trash bins. That's about it. Some stores are luckier with roomier back rooms, but my back room occasionally didn't even have anywhere to sit.

3. The secret menu isn't a thing.
I don't know how often this has to be said but people always seem to think there really is a secret menu. Most people who order from it (usually tweens and teens) seem to have gotten better about pulling up the recipes on their phones, but if you don't already know this, let me repeat: there is no secret menu. Which brings me to point four...

4. Colored drinks aren't a thing.
Just stop it. The Starbucks social media managers are not required to relay any information to Starbucks stores and guess what? They don't. Just because the Starbucks Instagram is going ham with colored drinks, the baristas are lost a bit lost. We weren't given recipe cards not instructed on how to make them. They still aren't official drinks. And just a pro tip: most of them aren't really good.

5. Black aprons are coffee masters.
Otherwise, we probably don't know a ton about the coffee. If you're really interested in a coffee type, where it comes from, etc. seek out or ask for a coffee master. Not every store has one but most I've worked at and seen do. Contrary to a rumor floating around, we aren't trained on all the coffee types brought into the store. We're hardly trained on how to make new featured drinks.

6. We really aren't out to ruin your day.
Some people take baristas making drinks incorrectly as a personal offense. I forgot to put whipped cream on a lady's mocha once and she almost killed me with the venomous look she gave me. There's a lot of drinks that we are expected to make quickly and efficiently while doing tons of other tasks and interacting with customers, and we do this with very little training and usually short staffed.

7. Everything that annoys you about Starbucks, we don't have within our control.
We don't make the prices. We didn't name the small, medium, and large sizes. We don't choose whether or not we run out of ingredients or the fact that corporate still hasn't introduced almond milk into stores or that we still use weird not coconut milk coconut milk.

8. If it seems like the line is really long or moving slowly and there aren't a ton of people behind the counter, it's because there aren't!
Corporate is really good at messing up labor and forcing managers to cut hours. Especially during "frappy" specials (aka hell). We work as hard as we can and go as fast as we can. We want the rush to end too.

9. Please say please and thank you and don't just throw your card at us.
The baristas on register are people. That's all you gotta remember. "Tall latte" is not an answer to "How are you?" And if you're on your phone while you're ordering, you need to stop.

10. Unlike other coffee shops, our espresso machines just have buttons.
We don't really pull our shots ourselves. The machine does it itself, so we regularly (or not so regularly) have to calibrate it to make sure

11. If your store is already closed don't expect to get in.
This goes for close to closing too. I'm not going to hate you obviously if we're still open, but towards the end of the day we're probably out of cold brew, maybe our iced teas, and freshly brewed coffee. You'd be surprised at how many people tried to knock on the door because they "just wanted this or that" after we had closed for the night.

12. We don't go to barista school.

13. We don't caf you if you ask for decaf, but we will decaf you if you ask for caf.
I don't know what monster would caf someone who asks for decaf because people have conditions and are pregnant and stuff like that, but if you're rude to me or others I might decaf your caf drink. Calm down crazy.

14. Your skinny latte or light frap still isn't healthy.
Don't come to Starbucks if you're looking to be the pinnacle of health please. You don't even want to know how much sugar is in any given frappuccino.

15. Please make sure you're picking up your drink.
If your name is Bob and you ordered a venti iced coffee, the tall latte for Susan surprisingly isn't yours. I've seriously had that happen. A rarity, but it happens. More common is people who take a tall latte that isn't theirs. Please listen for the sake of your baristas.

16. If we messed up your drink let us know.
If we messed up we should fix it. It is seriously is okay for you to ask the barista at the hand off station to fix it.

17. Please tell us what size you want.
Why do so many people forget this?

18. Know what you want at the drive thru.
Thank the heavens I didn't work at a drive thru store, but even I know: don't order things at the window. Those drive thru stores have time quotas to meet and if you order stuff at the window you mess everything up. Don't be one of those customers.

19. Just because another Starbucks breaks the rules for you, it doesn't mean we all will.
Partners (Starbucks employees) have a joke among us about the "other Starbucks" because we have some silly customers who will come in and get mad that we're charging them more for their custom drink because the "other Starbucks" doesn't charge them that much.

20. And for the sake of other coffee stores: don't order like you're at Starbucks if you aren't at Starbucks
It's just annoying.

Remember to always smile and thank your barista and maybe ask them how they're doing. We're humans too! And if you get a chance to go to the Starbucks Reserve in Seattle, go! It's really beautiful and amazing to see. I highly recommend it. Let me know below anything else you'd like to know about the legends of Starbucks! If you're a partner (or former partner) let me know! We can bond about annoying customers.


  1. I bet being a barista is really hard job, some people are so picky with drinks! Im so simple when it comes to Starbucks! I loved reading this post, I learned so much!!

    1. They are! Making drinks can be fun but when you want your latte at 200ยบ I gotta question it for a second!

  2. What a fun read! I'm not much of a coffee person so I don't frequent Starbucks but I enjoyed this post.

    xoxo, Jenny

  3. I've worked in food service before and I can totally relate to a lot of these things! I'm thankful for all of the lovely baristas in Starbucks and other coffee shops - you guys are ROCK STARS!
    -Anna |

    1. I totally agree--so thankful for anyone in service! It's quite a job.

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  5. I've never worked at Starbucks, but I go there all the time and I always see the rudest people! I can't imagine what you all go through in a day of I see like 10 crazy people in 15 minutes. Also, I've never really understood the fascination with the secret menu drinks and then people expecting the baristas to know every little thing...I really don't think they know that there is no such thing as a secret menu, it's all just made up! Great post!


    1. And on top of that--crazy people who think the secret menu exists and wont let you convince them otherwise. EEK! Thanks for reading Sami!

  6. I love this article! It was so interesting to hear what it's like behind the counter. I always try to be a pleasant customer!

    1. Most people are very pleasant and I'm sure you are too! Thanks for reading!

  7. Very cool post! I did't know a lot of that!

    1. Thank you! Glad you learned some new things!

  8. Ha, I love this post because it's so real!

    1. I had to get real with this one, haha. Thanks for reading!

  9. Interesting, I guess every location is different. My roommate did go to barista training at 5AM for two weeks.

    1. Ah! So jealous! Bay Area baristas are without this perk :( Thanks for reading!

  10. Loved reading this and getting to know more about Starbucks! Such a very informative post!
    Amy | Pastel N Pink

  11. What a fun read. I've had tones of friends who were baristas and they've all shot down the "secret menu" too but I guess its fun for some to feel exclusive... cute read none the less!

    1. People get *super* creative with secret menu drinks, it's honestly impressive! Thank you!

  12. Love this insight! I always try to be patient and pleasant when ordering. I see the way some customers treat the baristas and I cringe.

  13. I learned so much! So funny everyone thinks you go to barista school when instead you just have to pick up and learn everything on the spot!