Of the countless chain eateries out there, few have engendered the loyalty of their customers like Starbucks. Since opening in Seattle in 1971, the company has developed a rabid following, with more than 70 million customers stopping in for a drink or bite at one of its 24,000 stores each week.
While you may be familiar with the company’s menu, what goes on behind the scenes may surprise you. From those rumors about a secret menu to the differences in employee aprons, these 30 secrets from Starbucks employees might just have you second-guessing everything you know about your favorite coffee chain. Ready to add a healthier drink into the mix? These 56 Best Smoothies For Weight Loss can be a lower-sugar, higher-protein way to start your day.
There’s No Secret Menu
Starbucks’ famous Unicorn Frappuccinos and zombie-inspired beverages are definitely real, but they’re not part of a secret menu. Starbucks are employees are quick to dispel the rumors that there’s an actual list of off-menu orders somewhere. “Customers really do believe we have a secret menu and can make anything comprising a dozen ingredients off the top of our heads during a rush. And worse is when they complain about the taste like I’m supposed to know the flavor profile of a PokeBall Frappuccino,” says one barista. If you’ve had one too many Starbucks treats lately, you can start sipping your way slim again with the 50 Best Detox Waters for Fat Burning and Weight Loss.
Starbucks Will Get You a Birthday Gift
Your grandmother isn’t the only person who still gives you a present for your birthday; your local barista is ready to dish out gifts on your big day, too. Starbucks Card holders and those who have signed up for the company’s mobile app can enjoy a free drink or food item on their birthday each year. Even better, you don’t have to make a single purchase to enjoy that free treat. Keep your healthy eating on track by following up that birthday indulgence with some of the 40 Best-Ever Fat-Burning Foods!
But There’s a Limit
While you can get free drink on your birthday, there are limits. One barista reveals that the company will only give you eight shots of espresso at one time, although customers have been adamant about getting more.
If You Want an Off-Menu Order, Know the Ingredients
“It’s not necessarily irritating if you know what the ingredients are,” says one barista of off-menu orders. “It’s really only frustrating when people come in and say something like ‘Let me have a Twix Frap!’ and they expect us to know how to do it and say it is on the ‘secret’ menu. We do not have an actual secret menu, it’s just a website that takes people’s original ideas to make custom drinks.”
There’s a Starbucks Treat Just For Dogs
If your canine companion is taking a trip to your local Starbucks with you, they’re in for a treat. Starbucks employees will make you a “puppaccino”—that’s a small serving of whippped cream—for your pooch if you ask for one. “That’s actually one of the things we like giving out the most. Especially through drive if we get to watch the dog enjoy it,” says one employee. “Takes less than 10 seconds to grab a sample cup and fill it with some whip.” Walk your pooch and get healthier at the same time with the 30 Tips For When You’re Walking For Weight Loss!
There’s No Standard Law Enforcement Discount
While uniformed police officers, firefighters, and members of the military will often get a discounted or free beverage as a thank you at certain stores, it’s not a company policy across the board. “Discounts for law enforcements are not corporately supported, but many customers and baristas (myself included) will go out of their way to pay for their coffee,” says one barista.
Many Baristas Consider Starbucks a Career
While some people believe service industry jobs to be stepping stones before you tackle a full-fledged career, your Starbucks barista may be on a career path already. Not only are many Starbucks employees earning degrees through the company’s partnership with Arizona State University, Starbucks’ eagerness to hire from within makes many baristas aspire to higher positions within the company. “Honestly, at the beginning it was just a job to get me through school, but now that I’ve been with the company for almost 3 years, I could see myself moving into head office and working here my whole life,” says one barista.
There’s a Specific Standard For Mixing Drinks
That perfect foam atop your Starbucks iced tea was earned the hard way: through lots of shaking. According to one Starbucks barista, the standard for mixing teas is ten shakes. However, during peak hours, don’t be surprised if your barista gives it just one or two.
You Can Hack the Menu
While Starbucks employees will make you practically anything your heart desires, what they aren’t likely to tell you is how you can get your favorite drinks on the cheap. Luckily, one brave barista dished the dirt on how to slash the price of iced lattes: “An iced venti latte is ~$4, a doppio (two espresso shots) is $1.95, and a cup of ice with two [added] shots is $1.20. Because you can add as much cold milk as you want from the condiment bar (that island full of sugar packets and carafes) to whatever you’re drinking, you can ALWAYS ask for an iced venti doppio, pay $1.95 then add the milk yourself. Half price lattes.”
Drink Recipes Differ From Country to Country
If you’ve noticed that your usual Starbucks order tastes different when you’re away from home, that’s not just your imagination. One barista who transferred from a UK Starbucks to one in the US reveals that stateside drinks contain half the espresso. Another barista confirms: “I’m fairly certain it’s meant to be stronger in the UK because US customers seem to just want sugar with a lil’ bit of espresso.”
Some Baristas Will Serve You Decaf If You’re Rude
While most Starbucks baristas deny that any serious food tampering goes on at their locations, a few admit to giving cranky customers a cup of decaf instead of regular coffee. “When you think you’re entitled to anything and complain about a non issue, you’re getting decaf and I’m not apologizing about your minor inconvenience,” says one barista.
That Low Lighting in Stores is No Coincidence
The mood lighting Starbucks seems to favor isn’t just a ploy to get you to buy more coffee. In a bid to be more environmentally-friendly, Starbucks became a member of the U.S. Green Building Council in 2001, creating LEED-certified stores across the globe beginning in 2008.
Don’t Be Afraid to Order Ice
Those horror stories about the cleanliness of various fast food ice machines are enough to have anyone ordering hot drinks in mid-August. Fortunately, Starbucks employees say that stores don’t mess around when it comes to their ice. “I worked for Starbucks for 4 years and picked up shifts at 4 or 5 stores at different points while I worked there. Every store I worked in was very diligent about cleaning the ice machines multiple times a week. Empty it out, and wipe it down when it’s slow. Not that complicated,” says one former employee.
They Don’t Care if You’re Using Their Lingo
Your barista probably isn’t judging you when you order a large instead of a venti. “I’m never going to correct you,” says one barista. “You say the size you want and I’ll work with you.”
Those Black Aprons Do Mean Something
Those black aprons on certain baristas aren’t just to keep coffee stains hidden. In fact, baristas wearing black have been certified as coffee masters though an education program provided by Starbucks.
Iced Coffee is the Best Value For Your Money
“The best drink to get if you want something cheap is iced coffee,” says one barista. “You can add any syrup for free and make it taste way better than the lattes. Also, ask for steamed iced coffee if our coffee is too weak. The baristas will most definitely look at you funny but we literally have to do anything you tell us to.”
Don’t Expect a Starbucks Kiosk to Offer the Full Menu
If you find yourself in a Barnes & Noble, Target, or other store with a Starbucks kiosk, don’t expect a full menu. One Redditor recounts the harrowing experience of trying to explain the variation in menus from store to store. Be kind to your baristas; they’re not the ones who choose what the store sells, after all.
They Are Happy to Have You Work There
Those big tables and ample outlets at your local Starbucks are there for a reason: employees are happy to have customers work there. If you’ve ordered something, don’t be shy about staying a while to catch up on emails or chat with a friend. “I think those people are delightful,” says one barista of customers who get comfortable. “They are fun to talk to and are taking advantage of the ‘3rd place’ that Starbucks sought to become in 1987.”
Brightly-Dyed Hair is a No-No
While Starbucks is known for its diverse staffers, that dyed hair won’t cut it. Not only are unnatural hair colors against the rules, one long-time barista even claims he was fired for his artificially flame-red locks.
Employees Get a Steep Discount
Starbucks employees aren’t going hungry at work. Not only do team members get one free food item and multiple free drinks per shift, they’re entitled to 30 percent off food and drinks when they come in on their off-days and they get even bigger discounts around the holidays.
Fizzy Drinks Are No Picnic to Make
Starbucks’ carbonated concoctions are among the most time-consuming for baristas to create. “Please don’t order the berry sangria or any carbonated drinks for that matter,” pleads one staffer. “We hate making them, they are simply the biggest pain.”
You Don’t Need a Resume to Work There
Want to become a barista? Don’t sweat it if you don’t have a lengthy resume. “Starbucks does not ask for nor require a resume or cover letter for barista positions. Your interviewing SM/ASM/SMT may glance at it as a courtesy, but it is one hundred percent not needed nor expected,” reveals one Starbucks employee.
Your Body Art Might Violate Their Policies
Your hipster style may fit right in at your local Starbucks, but that doesn’t mean all body art is welcome. Starbucks policy dictates that employees can only wear two earrings per ear and have to take out facial jewelry aside from nose studs. While corporate policy says that ear gauges should be kept small, one employee says that, as long as they have plugs in, size is not an issue.
They Pride Themselves on Cleanliness
Have you ever noticed how spotless even busy Starbucks locations tend to be? That’s no coincidence. Employees say that the chain makes cleanliness and safety top priorities. In fact, the drinks are so fresh that there’s a “99% chance the milk used in your drink was first opened an hour prior,” according to one barista.
Those Pastries Aren’t Made In-House
While Starbucks’ drinks are made to order, their pastries aren’t baked in-house. According to employees, baked goods are shipped in frozen and it’s up to baristas to defrost them. Looking for something healthier to nosh on? Try one of the 40 Healthy Snack Ideas To Keep You Slim!
Different Stores Have Different Prices
Don’t blame your barista if your latte costs more in Oakland than it does in Omaha. “The price of drinks is purely based on region,” says one longtime barista. “They are mostly standardized throughout the country, but local and state taxes will change the final price of drinks.”
Most Drinks Can Be Made Vegan-Friendly
Think your ethical eating habits mean Starbucks is off-limits? Think again. “As a barista who worked for a vegan company and had to research what’s vegan at Starbucks, none of the regular syrups have milk in them, though the caramel drizzle and the thicker syrups (white mocha, pumpkin spice, and caramel brulee) do. Regular mocha is vegan though,” reveals one employee.
Ordering a Frappuccino During Rush Hour Will Get You Some Dirty Looks
Frappuccinos are delicious, but they’re also time-consuming. Baristas admit that customers who order Frappuccinos when the store is packed are often on the receiving end of some ire.
Baristas Can Get Discounted Apple Merch
Starbucks food and drinks aren’t the only things that employees get a discount on. Through their partnership program, Starbucks employees can get significant discounts on pricey Apple products.
Your Barista Could Be a Champion
That barista you’re ordering from might just be a champion in their field. Baristas who have honed their skills in latte art, new beverage creation, and coffee pairings may be eligible to compete in the Starbucks Barista Championships. Finalists not only get two plaques recognizing their effort, but a trip to Starbucks headquarters in Seattle. Before you make your next Starbucks pilgrimage, make sure your go-to treat doesn’t make our list of The #1 Worst Menu Option at 41 Popular Restaurants!