4 things former Starbucks employees would never tell you while working there

  • Starbucks has its fair share of operational quirks, from an outside company cleaning its stores like a “fire drill” to having a reputation for misspelling names on orders.
  • Emily Bloch spoke to several former Starbucks employees to get these behind-the-scenes details on the company.

After 2 1/2 years working as a barista for Starbucks, Jonathan Diener tossed his green apron aside and walked out of the location in Grand Blanc, Michigan, that gave the touring musician a semblance of stability. The drummer worked his last shift on September 6.

Until then, Diener was one of the $US79 billion coffee company’s roughly 277,000 employees. And like most former employees of a massively popular food-service chain, he had some percolating secrets to share about the company.

We recently caught up with Diener and other former Starbucks employees, who shared four things they would never tell you while working for Starbucks.

1. You can say “medium.”


Despite the brand’s signature, Italian-inspired size names – “tall” (12 ounces), “grande” (16 ounces), “venti” (24 ounces), and “trenta” (31 ounces) – Starbucks employees won’t care if you order a Frappuccino as a “small,” “medium,” or “large.”

“Without exaggerating, 90% of our customers were either too intimidated or confused by our sizes and would actually omit the information so we have to ask which size,” Diener said. “Baristas don’t mind if you say traditional size names when ordering.”

2. Food waste is still a problem.


Food waste isn’t a new problem in the food industry, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by Starbucks.

The company said earlier this year that it had fed 10 million people by donating its unsold food to food banks through the FoodShare program, which locations in 22 of its markets participate in. By 2020, the company plans to donate 50 million meals a year.

A company representative told Business Insider that “when not part of our FoodShare program, which has helped donate 10-million-plus meals since launching in 2016, many of our stores work with their local food banks to set up food donations.”

But Alex Cote, who was a Starbucks barista for five years, told Business Insider that there were still issues at his store in Massachusetts, despite its participation in the FoodShare initiative.

“We would waste over 100 sandwiches a week because you have to make sure you don’t sell out,” he said. “Many managers would over-order because sales were valued over waste.”

3. An outside company cleans Starbucks locations like a “fire drill.”

“They have this company that comes as a surprise to make sure everything’s clean, so I feel like that always made sure we were tidy,” said Julia Avenriep, who worked at a South Florida Starbucks location.

A current Starbucks shift manager from a New England location who asked not to be named confirmed to Business Insider that the company really does harp on cleanliness.

Starbucks has EcoSure, a food-safety and public-health company, conduct surprise audits at locations. “It’s like a clean-standard fire drill every time they come in,” the current employee said.

“I never saw bugs,” Avenriep said. “They are just really on top of keeping the back just as clean as the front.”

And it better be clean, because managers’ jobs and potential bonuses depend on those audit scores, according to the shift manager.

“We take great pride in creating a warm and welcoming environment where customers and partners can gather and connect,” a Starbucks representative told Business Insider. (The chain refers to its employees as partners.)

“As part of that, all of our stores have regular processes in place to ensure the store is clean,” the representative continued. “In the instance where an issue arises, a partner has a protocol they can follow to address it immediately.”

4. The misspelled names aren’t to be cute.

“It’s not a PR conspiracy,” Diener said of the infamously misspelled names on the sides of Starbucks cups.

In 2016, a YouTube channel suggested the misspellings were to gain attention on social media. But Diener said that wasn’t the case.

“Starbucks partners are either dealing with a line of people, have trouble hearing customers, don’t have time to get the spelling of every name, or English is their second language and they’re doing their best,” he said.

As Diener was discussing this Business Insider, he was sipping an iced espresso from a Starbucks inside an airport in Chicago, and his name on the cup was misspelled as “Jonh.”

Of course, if you want to ensure your name is spelled correctly, order through the app.