THE LANGUAGE OF STARBUCKS

Languages have never been my strong suit, but there is one that I simply cannot understand no matter how many times I try. You probably guessed it. It, of course, is the Starbucks language of coffee. I’m not sure what class, or after school club, I missed in my education to pick up on this. How do people learn the little intricacies of their favorite orders? It’s not on the menu, believe me, I keep checking. It’s not on the website. It’s not on their commercials. It’s not on Google. If you don’t speak coffee, you better befriend a nice human who will teach you because otherwise you’ll be stuck standing at the front of the line looking like a deer in the headlights with angry, caffeine-deprived customers screaming at your back.

It’s a straight up clique. An original form of social distancing for those who haven’t proven their worth by passing the challenge of ordering a drink from the menu and then proceeding to change everything about it. Personally, I find the drive-through lines comical because that is way slower than waiting in the store line. You have to try and explain your custom creation through the highly efficient outdoor microphone. You know, the ones that pick up about a third of what you say. Then you get to play the ever fun phone tag, or microphone tag in this case, of you placing an order, the employee repeating it, you correcting it (because heaven forbid you get two pumps of caramel when you specified twenty), the employee repeating it again, you correcting it … again (because you asked for pumpkin spice not light ice), the employee getting a bit frustrated on round 3, you getting irritated over having to continue to repeat your daily order (how do they not have this memorized by now, all the money you’ve spent there?!), etc.

Rant over, I apologize for all the die-hard Starbucks fans in the world. What do you call yourselves? Starbucksers? Star-Warriors? Starbuck Chucks? Straight up Stars? SBean? Estarbucksso? Now that is a winner! I should trademark it, you are all welcome. Don’t say I never did anything nice for you. Judge you? Yes. Mock you? Definitely. Blog about you? Certainly. But alas, I have given your band of minions a catchphrase.

I understand the concept of customization in food. If you’re paying for it, it better be everything you hoped for and more. What’s the best way to do that? Make it your own! Most places have found a balance – a diverse menu that lets you make slight adjustments based on dining preferences. Burgers without ketchup, extra cheese on the nachos, double the oreos in the milkshake, re-heating the fries so they’re toasty by the time you get to them, combination of half lemonade and half tea, etc. Minor adjustments that don’t impact the overall cooking process. It is but a blip on the cook’s radar.

Starbucks has adopted the opposite mentality it seems. Create a menu, train employees how to make the small amount of available drinks, then allow customers to run wild with suggestions. Completely ignoring what people at corporate have deemed current feasible options. How this is a sustainable business model stymies me … oh, wait, it’s because they cater to both the 1% and the 99% all at once. In other words, the rarely seen 100%. Price: 1% model, hands down. Coffee drinkers: well there’s the 99-ers. It’s fascinating. Why even bother creating a menu? Why spend money and time and energy and sanity constructing beverages that people will look at and go, it’s fine and all, but completely change the recipe and I’ll drink it? 

You order a chocolate chip frappuccino, sans chocolate chips, without milk, zero sugar, and instead of espresso a black coffee pour over. Pretty close. You order a vanilla latte, but skinny edition sans flavor, additives, anything besides water, and low-fat whipped cream. You order a caramel macchiato, but with ten pumps of chocolate, just a quarter pump of caramel, milk steamed at exactly 152.5 degrees for slight froth, but not too much, and a whipped cream. I don’t even know what I’m saying but these are all things I’ve heard while waiting in line for my cake pop. Honestly, I don’t care – estarbuckssos, you do you. What I do care about, is having my order become unnecessarily complicated because the employees forget normal words like water. I have to order liquid, pulled from the coldest, purest creeks in Chile with ice, hand carved by farmers in the Swiss Alps. And, of course, a perfectly moist, aerated, sugar dough covered with the finest colors at the end of the Lucky Charms rainbow and topped with tiny globes of crunch.

Alright, jumping off my pedestal for now. If you know someone who would enjoy this post and want to share it with them, that would be awesome. Sharing is caring, after all. Don’t forget to subscribe to get these in your inbox twice weekly and follow TRP on Twitter for frequent musings. Thanks for reading!


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