Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Macchiato Rules of Engagement

Starbucks is a fun job. No, it really is... I mean, think about it... its flexible hours, good pay for a barista, much less an assistant manager, full benefits just for working part time, and you get to interact with lots and lots of people.

That being said, it can be taxing. I work on the Highway 280 store, close to Inverness, right in front of the Jason's Deli and the Fresh Market, where I'm the ASM, heir apparent to getting my own store one of these days.

This is a drive-thru store as well... for the longest time, Starbucks wasn't going to be a drive thru type place, but back some time ago, they gave in--and now the biggest money makers for the company are pretty much DTs. I started with Starbucks back in 2003, opening the store in Vestavia Hills, which was Alabama's first DT... and its first $1 million dollar store. Other stores have followed suit with that achievement, but we were the first.

If you've ever been to a drive thru anywhere, say, McDonald's, you know how much room there is for improvement... alot. I went to Wendy's the other day, bought my combo, and the lady was actually on her cell phone, talking away. She took my money, handed me my food, handed me my drink (which I had to wipe off because of the cola running down the side) and then shut the window, all while telling Kamisha she shouldn't take that from ReyRey, and she better not catch her man Shatheed doing that stuff.

Taco Bell is even worse--I waited in the DT line for over twenty minutes--not kidding--to order (I couldn't leave, because the one by my apartment has a closed lane... when you are in, you are in) because the guy forgot to turn his headset on. Forgot to turn the stupid thing on.

Starbucks as a whole, and myself as well, personally prides itself on bringing service to you at the counter, or in the drive thru, service that you won't find anywhere else... did we get your drink wrong? Its on us. You ordered a tall? Well, we made too much... here, you get a grande instead. Tried the vanilla bean and didn't like it? Tell me what else you'd like, and we'll make that for you instead, free of charge.

I think everyone in our store realizes that at one time or another, EVERYONE had a first time in Starbucks... mine was in Manhattan in 1998. I ordered a grande mocha... I had no idea what I was drinking. Not a clue.

However, there are 16 things I'd like to tell you in the drive thru, some things that will make your Starbucks experience much easier... pay attention... this will make your barista love you:

1) When ordering, there are two things you must identify first... size is the first thing. Size matters because the barista needs to grab the right cup. If you order a "cafe mocha with three equals, two pumps of mocha, two pumps of caramel, light whip, skim milk and can you make it half-caf?" but don't specify a size, the barista is standing there trying to remember everything, and wondering what cup to mark it on. And when you do say size, with an order like that, you'll have to say it all again.

2) If your drink is iced, you must say so. Don't order a venti vanilla latte, then get upset when they give you a hot drink. You didn't say "iced". And yes, people are drinking hot drinks even though its 113 degrees outside... you don't say "iced", chances are, you aren't going to be asked, and you aren't going to get what you want.

3) Starbucks can be pricey. We recognize that. Thats why we try so hard to make your drink just how you like it. If you are in the DT, don't get upset if we ask you a few times what you just said. We might repeat it back to you five times--don't be alarmed... if you are paying four bucks for a 16 ounce drink, we want to make sure its exactly what you want... we'd rather repeat it to you five times and give you what you want than make it wrong, and hae you bring it back.

4) Having said that, when you order a drink--especially when you have multiple drink orders-- don't spit it out like "yeah, I want a grandemochadecafwith1splendaandlightwhip and then I want a ventivanillalattewith..." We have to do two things with each drink: put it into the register and mark the cup. Take a breath, give the size first (is it iced??) then give your drink order in a calm and collected fashion. If you have another drink, wait two seconds and then start--don't be upset if your barista says, "Okay, hold on one second... you had a decaf grande 1 splenda light whip mocha, right? Alright, go ahead with the next drink."

5) If you a smoker, and like to hold your cigerette in your left hand so the smoke drifts through the open window, we hate you. Nothing personal, but we hate you and talk bad about you when you leave. Hold your cigerettes in your right hand when you get to the window. If you keep it in your right hand so smoke doesn't get in your car, then you know what? Put the darn thing out for two minutes while you are in our drive thru.

6) You are in our drive thru line. We enjoy you coming to visit, but no one forced your hand. So if you are on your cellphone, don't talk to us like its an inconvenience to give your order. We've actually had one customer in the DT on their cell phone sigh, "Hold on, the Starbucks guy wants my order..." That's why you are here. Now, sometimes emergencies happen... sometimes phone calls are just too important not to take, and we understand that. But you'll have a happy barista for life if you tell them at the window, "I apologize for being on the phone... I know its rude, but it couldn't be helped..." One lady said that to me once, I still remember it to this day.

7) Passengers, either tell your driver what you want and let them repeat it, or speak very loudly from the passenger seat. You know what? Don't even talk. Just let the driver do it.

8) If you hear us say "Welcome to Starbucks, we'll be with you in one moment", that does not mean you should go ahead with your order. It can be very hectic inside, and we want to give you our full attention, so let us get to the point where we can. If you don't hear us say "we'll be with you in a moment" because you're on your cell phone, then thats your fault.

9) Its okay to ask questions. Its okay to ask how many shots come in a grande latte (2), or do we put whipped cream on the regular coffee frappuccinos (no), but please don't sit there for five minutes at the speaker wondering. You could easily say "I'll come to the window" and we'll be happy to answer your questions... this will also let the line that will have built behind you move a little.

10) Quick lessons... a latte is espresso with lots of steamed milk and some foam. A cappuccino is espresso with half steamed milk, half foam. It becomes a vanilla latte when you add vanilla to a regular latte. It becomes a cafe mocha when you add chocolate to the latte. It becomes a hazelnut cappuccino when... that's right, you had hazelnut to a... you got it. Cappuccino. You'd be surprised the number of people who struggle with this.

11) Frappuccinos are easy too. We have three kind of frappuccinos... with coffee, and without coffee (also called a cream base) and the new juice blends. We can make your coffee frappuccino decaf, or light (less carbs & calories) and by itself its just a coffee frappuccino... but when you add chocolate it becomes a... mocha frappuccino. If you want to play at home, guess what you'll have if you add caramel or java chips to a coffee frappuccino....

12) Cream based frappuccinos are made with just that... a cream base. Yes, we make it with nonfat milk, but do not get the idea this is good for you... this is the base we use for strawberries & cream, double chocolate chip (the same as java chip, just not a coffee base), vanilla bean and others. If you are concerned about fat grams, either leave off the whipped cream, or try our triple filtered ice water.

13) I mention #9 thru #12 only because you have to know, we can do just about anything. We have over a dozen syrups, and we can add any of it to your latte, your cappuccino, your frappuccino or whatever. Want a raspberry cream frappuccino? Done. How about a cinnamon & toffee nut latte? Got it. Perhaps a sugar free hazelnut frappuccino light or how about a iced latte flavored with melon syrup and made with soy? Yep. If you don't see it on the menu (and you might not--our board is only so big) then just ask. If we can't do it, we'll tell you.

14) None of our coffee is flavored... not saying flavored coffee is bad, but its a cheaper bean that Starbucks does not buy. Typically, there are three brews in the morning--bold, mild and decaf. You want stronger coffee? Go bold. You want more caffeine? Go mild. If its the afternoon, many stores will not have mild brewed... just ask for it, but you'll have to wait about five minutes. Which means you should just come in the store, and not in the DT for five minutes.

15) Starbucks is not for everyone. And if you don't like it, that's fine. But don't make it a point to tell me how awful your Starbucks coffee is, how its burned and all, and then tell me how you like your Folgers flavor crystals. If you'd rather have Southern Home mac and chesse and never the Kraft, then that's all you baby.

16) And finally... remeber what you are doing. You are paying five bucks for a pimped out cup of coffee. If we make a mistake, if we put whipped cream on your drink when you asked us not too, or we didn't stir your macchiato when you wanted us to, don't get mad. Yes, you may have had a hard day, but you have to keep in mind ITS JUST COFFEE. We are not delivering babies, we are not performing neurosurgery, we are giving you a cup of coffee. If the drink is wrong, let us know... chances are you'll get a free drink out of it. The barista might have just been yelled at five minutes before you came in the DT... your smiling face, even after we make a mistake, might be the best thing to happen to us.

I hope this helps better your relationship with your local barista. Smile and talk to your barista, have fun at the DT because truly, 99% of them want to have fun with you. And if I know you--even if I don't--depending on the time or day, you might just get your coffee for free...


  1. That was AWESOME! Can I post it on my MySpace? Better yet, you should post it on yours too, if you haven't already? That is too funny and so true.

    I always make it a point to call the person by their name, then order the size, flavor, then kind. Is that the proper way of ordering?

    Also, since you are Starbucks Sinsa (sp?), is it true that you have the peppermint mocha all year around, not just at Christmas? Set the record straight!!! :)


  2. its not on the menu board... but we have mocha all year round, and we have peppermint all year round... so yes, we have peppermint mocha all the live long year.

  3. Thanks for the clarification. :)


  4. After reading this I believe I have had a change of heart and you better believe the DT will be tipped by me next time I go through. Thank you for opening my eyes to the wonderful world and friendly people of Starbucks.



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