12 Ways to Make Your Starbucks Barista’s Life Easier

Happy hour is rough. We're starting a revolution.

Happy hour is rough. We’re starting a revolution.

Disclaimer: This post is entirely independent of Starbucks, Target, and Kroger, and is not affiliated with any of these brands in any way. These are simply thoughts and tips for our guests, as offered by someone who works for–but does not officially speak for–these companies.

America is addicted to caffeine and only two groups of people are benefiting: the food industry, and whoever owns the original patent on coffee and could single-handedly eliminate common access to caffeine and take over the world during the ensuing chaos. Everyone else is struggling to keep their eyes open, form complete sentences, and perform basic work-related tasks before 3pm.

Your local Starbucks baristas are there to ease your transition from the corporate-walking-dead to productive-member-of-society, but we can only do so much. Below are twelve tips to help make our lives easier and, in the long run, to help improve yours.

1) Organize your order. 

We know that being able to rattle off a crazy long and complicated drink order is a rite of passage in the coffee world–especially at Starbucks. We don’t want to take that away from you, but it can be far more difficult to properly make your favorite drink when don’t tell us what kind of cup to write it on until the very end. Use this handy formula to create an order that’s as organized for you as it is for us:

Request your drink in the following order: 
(short, tall, grande, venti, trenta)
Temperature (hot, iced–this applies to all drinks except Frappuccinos)
Drink (mocha, Frappucino, Pumpkin Spice latte, shaken tea, etc.)
Decaf (if applicable)
Shots (if you desire a number of shots that DIFFERS from the original recipe–be it more shots or fewer shots)
Syrup (if you desire any of the following: to add syrup (i.e. “with a pump of raspberry”), specify dietary restrictions (i.e. “sugar-free vanilla”), change syrup (i.e. “toffee nut instead of caramel”), or skip syrup (i.e. “no vanilla” or “only one pump of hazelnut”))
Milk (if you want a special kind of milk that DIFFERS from the original recipe; if you’d like extra/less milk; or if you’d like extra/less/no whipped creme)
Custom (anything you need to specify that hasn’t been tackled yet, such as “with chips” or “light foam”)

If you take a little time now to memorize your drink in THAT order, the payoff will be enormous later–for both you and your barista. Besides, you’ll sound like you know what you’re talking about to your peers AND to us!

Here’s an example of how a complex order might sound, using the formula:

“I’ll have a grande iced mocha, half-caf, with only one shot, a pump of peppermint, soy milk, and chocolate drizzle on top.”

See? Didn’t that sound classy? And that would be one heck of a delicious drink.

(Fun fact: The reason we need to hear the size and temperature first is so that we can get the proper cup and start writing while you’re speaking.)

2) No matter what, if the lights are off, we’re closed.

Every single time–almost without fail–people approach the dark Starbucks counter after our posted closing time and ask if we’re closed. Contrary to popular belief, making coffee with the lights out does not  make the roast any darker. There is literally no reason to make drinks with our lights turned off. Moral of the story: Lights out = closed. If the lights are out due to a power outage, our machines don’t work and we are STILL closed.

3) If we’re closed, we are not going to make you a drink. 

Especially at locations where the Starbucks brand is owned by a different company (i.e. Target, Kroger, etc.), employees are on a very strict schedule. Staying past clock-out time costs the company lots of money and gets the individual employee in trouble. There’s lots to close in very little time–we simply can’t open back up so that you can get your coffee fix. We know that’s harsh, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. Our closing time is the time that we close. It’s that simple.

4) Strategically time coffee runs to be as minimally miserable as possible–both for you and for us.

Nothing makes a frantic barista feel more helpless during a rush than when the line is long, people are getting impatient, nothing (s)he does is helping, then one person steps up with their phone open to a long, long text and announces, “Okay, I have seven drinks.”

Admittedly, coffee runs are inherently kind of awful. The people who need them are clearly caffeine-deprived; the people who run them are usually underpaid, kissing up, or just being really nice, but the only reward they get is an incredibly long wait in a line full of more cranky, caffeine-deprived people; and the baristas are somehow expected to remedy this instantly, as if the confines of time and space don’t exist.

Thankfully, there are ways to make coffee runs tolerable and leave the barista–and the rest of the line–silently thanking you.

  1. Don’t come during a rush. Mealtimes, 3pm-5pm (especially during May), and 30 minutes before close are times you should avoid.
  2. If possible, call ahead. Not all locations will take call-in orders but if you find one that does, take advantage of it. Be flexible if they try to convince you to come pick it up at a time when they’re not super busy–even if it means sacrificing 30 minutes you would otherwise spend caffeinated.
  3. If all else fails, keep your drinks simple. Huge orders are usually a pain because they involve complex drinks. If you MUST come during a rush, and you CAN’T call ahead, please do your best to keep drinks simple. We offer plenty of drinks that pack the same punch without the complex recipe.
    The most time-consuming drinks to make during rushes are:
    *Pour-overs (special coffee that isn’t already brewed and ready to go).
    The fastest drinks are:
    *Regular brews (ones we have ready to go, such as Pike’s)
    *Iced mochas
    *Iced lattes
    *Mochas, and pretty much anything that doesn’t involve a blender.
    If it’s a hot drink (i.e. needs steamed milk), it will take a bit more time, but that’s far easier than mid-rush Frappuccinos.

5) Just swipe once.

Please DO NOT put each drink in your order on a different transaction so that you can get more stars on your Rewards Card. ESPECIALLY NOT DURING RUSHES. Oh please, for the sake of all that is holy and good: Not. During. Rushes. Should you get a star for every drink, or every two drinks? Maybe. Take it up with the execs, not your exhausted and stressed barista.

 6) Know where your rewards are redeemable.

This tip is for you more than for us. Some locations cannot redeem membership rewards. We don’t mind reminding you of that when you ask, it’s just sad when someone comes in pumped for their free drink and then has to pay for it. We can give you stars to collect, but we can’t redeem them. Nope, not even birthday drinks, and we know that sucks. Happy birthday.

7) Be kind to trainees.

Next time you’re in line at Starbucks, try to listen to the orders being placed and imagine that you, with absolutely no prior experience, were thrown into the chaos behind the counter and expected to please caffeine-deprived people with those uber-specific (or uber-ambiguous but equally picky) orders. If this doesn’t seem scary to you, feel free to apply–we need people like you! If it does seems scary, that’s because it is. There is DEFINITELY a learning curve to memorizing recipes and making drinks, and the trainees appreciate your patience and understanding SO MUCH. Once we’re comfortable, we usually love what we do, but in the meantime a little encouragement from the guests goes a long way.

8) Please do not pay with pennies.

Assets Protection expects us to count them, and the rest of the people in line will stare holes directly through your skull the entire time.

9) The more complex your drink, the more patient you need to be.

Complex drinks are…complex. They take time to make. Find yourself in a rush? Try to plan a “Plan B drink” for when you’re extra busy. Pick something easy and quick to make that packs most of the same benefits from your regular order. Can’t find one? Try picking a different drink that will hold you over until you have more time.

(Tip: Do you usually get a grande iced coffee with 4 shots and 6 pumps of vanilla? Espresso shots take a while to pull. If you need to get in and out, try ordering a grande Pike’s brew (or a blonde, if they have it ready to go). That has more caffeine in it than 3 espresso shots combined. That should hold you over till you have time to get your regular energy-boosting drink.)

(Additional tip: Need lots of caffeine? Go for a lighter roast. The lighter the bean is, the more caffeine it has in it. Roasting coffee beans actually reduces their caffeine content, so always go for a blonde on the days you need an extra kick.)

10) To the left, to the left…once you place your order, you should move to the left.

Okay, maybe in some places it’s to the right,  but you get the idea. Please come up to the cash register to place your order, then move along the bar so that the next customer knows that the register is open. Besides, we’ll call and hand you your drink at the hand-off counter, which is usually at the opposite end of the room.

11) Unsure of your drink? Just ask.

If you see a lonely drink on the hand-off counter that might be yours, please ask! It’s always frustrating (and awkward) when someone isn’t listening, assumes a drink is theirs, complains that we didn’t get it right, then realizes they just sipped out of someone else’s drink. We’d love to help you avoid that dilemma. Just ask us!

12) Order your Secret Menu drink when things slow down.

The Secret Menu is great–we love getting recipes from fans!–but it is also rather involved. If you’d like to try one of them, please do your best to order it when we’re able to do a good job with it. (Hear: not during rush, and not immediately before close.)

During a rush, pulling up the menu, waiting for us to record it, find the special ingredients, and make the drink takes TIME. Mid-rush Secret Menu orders are pretty inconsiderate to the other guests. If you try to order one just before close–especially a particularly complex one–it’s pretty likely that we’ll have already run out of the ingredients that make your special drink so special (especially bananas, which often expire at awkward intervals just before close).

Any other time, order away!

Of course, there are a great many other ways to work with your barista to make your Starbucks experience wonderful. These were just a few–now get out there and  kick off your new life of smoother caffeination.


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