Americans have rediscovered their love for the drive-thru

McDonald's drive thru
  • Fast-food chains are continuing to emphasize drive-thru improvements.
  • Drive-thrus were critical for chains when the pandemic closed indoor dining.
  • Now customers can eat inside again, but drive-thrus are still key for business after customers rediscovered it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Restaurant dining rooms are reopening in most of the US, but Americans are still drive-thru devotees.

Major fast-food brands reported quarterly earnings this week, and executives made it clear that drive-thrus are still huge for business.

Yum Brands Chief Financial Officer Chris Turner emphasized Taco Bell’s drive-thru success over the last quarter to investors in an earnings call. “The drive-thru experience is an increasingly critical competitive advantage for our brands,” he said, noting that drive-thru times improved by six seconds year over year even as the chain served four million more cars.

Taco Bell has increasingly prioritized drive-thrus over the last 18 months and made some major changes to improve the drive-thru experience. To some customers’ dismay, last year the chain cut over a dozen items, including potatoes and and Nachos Supreme, to shorten wait times. The cuts paid off – in the third quarter of 2020, Taco Bell served 30 million more customers than in all of 2019, and each order was completed 17 seconds faster.

Read more: Subway tried to give away 1 million sandwiches to promote its new menu. Franchisees say almost nobody wanted them.

Starbucks similarly credits its drive-thrus with the chain’s strong recovery as pandemic restrictions eased. “We continue to see strong sales recovery in the rural and suburban areas of the business, and in particular drive-thru,” Group President, North America and COO John Culver told investors.

Culver said that Starbucks is focusing on decreasing drive-thru wait times for customers. The chain has been testing new strategies for keeping drive-thru wait times down, even as customizations remain popular and average ticket size is elevated. Baristas can take orders through digital drive-thru screens, which the company previously said are installed at about 3,800 stores. Finally, Starbucks is also renovating 150 US drive-thrus that are space-constrained to make them more efficient, Culver said.

McDonald’s also emphasized the importance of drive-thrus in an earnings call. CEO Chris Kempczinski began the call by talking about the “iconic” McDonald’s experience and referencing how the chain pioneered drive-thrus in the early 1970s. He touted McDonald’s improved drive-thru times, which have shortened by 30 seconds in the last several years, with a slight three-second setback this year. He says times are still improving, though hurt by the labor shortage.

Like its competitors, McDonald’s is also investing in drive-thrus to make them even fast and more efficient. McDonald’s corporate has been pushing franchisees to upgrade drive-thrus since 2019 after years of increasingly long wait times. Since then, many of the chain’s 14,000 US drive-thrus now have double lanes, which are key to reducing bottlenecks. McDonald’s is also still working with AI technology in drive-thrus from the startup it bought in 2019, Aprente. Kempczinski said that the technology is in ten drive-thrus right now.

The future of indoor dining is uncertain right now as the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads and some municipalities reinstate mask mandates, even for vaccinated customers. Drive-thrus allowed fast-food chains to thrive in 2020, and these companies are continuing to invest in the drive-thru.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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Starbucks keeps 2 chairs empty to represent customers and employees at every corporate meeting

starbucks employees shareholder meeting
Starbucks employees file into the 2019 shareholder meeting.

  • Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz started the idea of empty chairs for customers and workers.
  • Starbucks is known for pioneering benefits for part-time workers.
  • Schultz left Starbucks in 2018.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Starbucks is known for offering some of the best benefits for workers in the fast food world, and a new insight about internal meetings shows how seriously the chain takes this.

Company meetings and conferences always have two empty chairs, one for the customer and one for the employee, Starbucks veteran Vivek Varma told Bloomberg. The empty chairs are there as a “reminder not to give shareholders outsize consideration,” over workers and customers, Varma said.

“Making our partners proud and ensuring they have ownership in the company has always been our approach dating as far back as when we served our first latte,” a spokesperson told Insider.

Starbucks workers are called partners because they are granted company stock after a certain period of employment.

Read more: Starbucks’ benefits boss explains how delivering unique incentives like fertility coverage and opportunities to further education are motivating its 350,000 employees and boosting the company’s bottom line

The idea dates back to former CEO Howard Schultz, who referenced it in his goodbye speech in 2018. “During all my years at Starbucks, in every weekly leadership meeting and quarterly board meeting, I always imagined two empty chairs in the room. One was for a partner and one for a customer,” the executive wrote.

“When I had to make a decision, I asked myself if the choice would make both proud. Today, I ask that you continue this tradition, and let the answer guide you. I promise the two chairs will serve you and the company well.”

Starbucks just reported record earnings and plans to invest more resources into cold brew and other cold drinks, which have proven hugely popular with customers.

Starbucks has pioneered many benefits for workers in the quick-service restaurant space, like full tuition coverage at Arizona State University and extending healthcare benefits to part-time workers back in 1988, making sure it also included domestic partnerships. The chain’s impact on the industry is evident as other businesses follow suit; Chipotle covers tuition for certain degrees, and Colorado chain Noodles & Company says it looks to Starbucks for leadership in benefits, Nancy Luna reported for Insider.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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Starbucks is serving a luxury $42 afternoon tea at its massive 4-story roastery in Tokyo. Here’s what you get.

Starbucks Japan afternoon tea
Starbucks’ package includes eight types of pasticcini and three small savory dishes such as savory scones.

  • Starbucks is serving a $42 afternoon tea to celebrate 25 years in Japan.
  • The luxury afternoon tea comes with eight small sweet cakes and three savory items.
  • It’s so popular that Starbucks says it may have to hold a lottery to allocate spots.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Starbucks is serving a limited-edition luxury afternoon tea in Tokyo, Japan – and it’s so popular that the chain says it may have to hold a lottery to decide who gets a spot.

Starbucks’ afternoon tea is called the “Roastery Pasticcini Flight.” Pasticcini is the Italian word for colorful bite-sized cakes and sweet baked goods.

Starbucks’ afternoon tea includes eight types of pasticcini and three small savory items, such as savory scones. It also comes with a pot of Teavana tea from a choice of four types: pineapple tea, hōjicha green tea, strawberry oolong, and a citrus, lavender, and sage tea.

The afternoon tea costs 4,620 yen ($42). A standard tall cappuccino will set you back around 418 yen ($3.80) at a Starbucks in Tokyo, roughly the same as US stores.

It’s only being served at one location: Starbucks’ Tokyo Reserve Roastery, one of the chain’s six larger flagship-style stores.

The other Reserve roasteries are in Seattle, Chicago, New York, Shanghai, and Milan.

Starbucks Roastery Tokyo 10
The afternoon tea is being served at a 32,000-square-foot store in Tokyo.

The 32,000-square-foot, four-story upmarket store sells espresso martinis, cream sodas, and whiskey. It also houses a Princi bakery that serves breads, pizzas, and salads – as well as the cakes from the afternoon tea.

The afternoon tea launched on July 7 and is available from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Starbucks says that it’s so popular that it can’t keep up with demand, and will hold a lottery for spots on its busiest days to make sure it has enough ingredients.

Starbucks launched the afternoon tea to celebrate 25 years since it opened its first store in Japan. It also launched a unique frappuccino for each of Japan’s 47 prefectures, such as a corn, white chocolate, and cornflake frappuccino available only in Hokkaido, and sweetened soy sauce, coffee, and cream frappuccino that you can only get in Chiba.

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Dunkin’ is embracing trends like Boba, oat milk, and plant-based meat to attract younger customers

Dunkin bag
  • Dunkin’ just added popping bubbles to menus.
  • Bubbles, like oat milk and Beyond Meat, are trendy foods that Dunkin’ embraced early.
  • Experts say this is a clear move to appeal to young customers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dunkin’ just added popping bubbles to menus, and it’s the latest entry into Dunkin’s experimentation with trendy food items.

Bubble tea, the Taiwanese milk tea drink with tapioca pearls, has surged in popularity in the last few years, even leading to a nationwide shortage this spring. Variations on the drink, including popping bubbles like the ones at Dunkin’, are riding the wave of popularity. They’re also now on the menu at Sonic, which is owned by Dunkin’ parent company Inspire Brands.

Dunkin’ has embraced other trendy food and drinks in the past. It added oat milk to stores in the summer of 2020, over six months before Starbucks followed. It jumped onto the plant-based food craze in November 2019, rolling out the Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich to thousands of stores, again months before Starbucks’ Impossible Breakfast Sandwich.

“Dunkin’ has been working hard to bring in a younger demographic,” Mark Kalinowski of Kalinowski Equity Research told Insider. “Part of that is putting things on menu that appeal to younger customers.”

He points to the avocado toast on menus as an example, a dish so associated with millennials that it’s become a meme, and promotions featuring teenage TikTok star Charli D’Amelio.

Kalinowski says that Dunkin’ looks to be making a conscious effort to draw in younger customers, who will ideally be loyal to the brand for years to come. Some competing brands have less of a need to concentrate on attracting young customers because they’ve grown that market over years, he said.

Read more: How Dunkin’ stole Starbucks’ crown as king of social media in 2020 using TikTok stars, purple drinks, and coffee-scented candles

“Dunkin’ is always being inspired by different trends to create new and delicious ways to bring Dunkin’ to our fans. Offering innovative choices to our guests is a key part of our efforts to transform and modernize the brand, and we are proud to stand apart as the brand that democratizes trends and finds new ways to keep Americans running,” Jill Nelson, Vice President of Marketing & Culinary for Dunkin’ told Insider.

“When considering potential new menu items, our focus is on offering our guests authentic, high-quality options that first and foremost taste great. Our guests have made it clear that they appreciate that we offer such a wide variety of choices for customizing their beverages, which has encouraged us to continue to introduce ways to personalize and plus-up their favorite drinks. For example, we have introduced dairy alternatives like oat milk, and a non-coffee product Popping Bubbles, small flavored bubbles that can be added to any Dunkin’ iced or frozen beverage,” Nelson told Insider about the chain’s process for updating menus.

Dunkin’ is privately held and does not release quarterly financial results, but Kalinowski says he believe Dunkin’ is likely benefitting from the resurgence in sales across the restaurant industry right now.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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Bizarre Starbucks cash-register glitch led to an uncontrollable stream of receipts being printed with the word ‘butter’

@themondanadiaries/TikTok
A TikTok user and apparent Starbucks workers posted the clip showing the malfunction.

  • A cashier who appeared to work for Starbucks posted a clip of an unusual cash-register glitch.
  • The video shows a continuous stream of receipts flowing from the machine.
  • It racked up more than five million views as TikTokers sympathized with the cashiers’ predicament.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A TikTok video that apparently showed a bizarre cash-register glitch at Starbucks has garnered more than 5 million views.

Initially posted on July 12 by TikTok user and apparent Starbucks employee @themondanadiaries, the video has now gone viral. It shows a malfunctioning register after a customer ordered a bagel with butter.

But a glitch in the system caused a seemingly endless stream of receipts printed with the word “butter” to flow out of the register.

In the video, @themondanadiaries and her colleagues watch in disbelief. Another video shows one of the workers turning off the machine – but the glitch just shifted to another register.

Text on the video says: “He broke it. It won’t stop printing this.” The user added in a caption that the event left her colleague “panicking.”

TikTokers mostly found the video comical, as In The Know via Yahoo News reported. Others said they could empathize with the Starbucks employees’ stress.

One joked: “I think the bagel is supposed to have butter but idk I’m not sure.” Another said they would have had a breakdown.

Starbucks did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Earlier this month, Starbucks workers told Insider they’re flooded with orders for TikTok-inspired “secret-menu” drinks.

One barista in Tennessee said he makes “at least 15” TikTok iced white mochas each day. But staff told Insider’s Grace Dean they were feeling the strain of making so-called “TikTok” drinks, which are inspired by viral trends. One worker said customers get “very mad” if their drinks are not made perfectly – making staff feel like they are “coffee-making robots.”

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UBS says Chipotle, Dunkin’, and Sonic have the lowest employee satisfaction, creating a massive problem for companies as they struggle to hire

Popeyes sign now hiring
The labor shortage is hitting fast food restaurants.

  • Dunkin’, Sonic, and Chipotle have some of the lowest worker satisfaction, UBS says.
  • Restaurant workers are more satisfied overall than they were before COVID-19.
  • Workers are leaving the industry at a record rate.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Restaurant workers are quitting at record levels, but employees at some chains are more unhappy than others.

UBS analysts used Glassdoor employee reviews and an analysis of wages and benefits to determine which restaurants had the most dissatisfied workers, and would therefore likely have the most trouble finding workers given the national labor shortage.

UBS looked at chains in five categories: traditional quick service, pizza, coffee, fast-casual, and casual dining. Starbucks, LongHorn, and Texas Roadhouse had the highest employee satisfaction levels across all categories, while Dunkin’, Sonic, and Chipotle were on the lower end.

Read more: Newly revealed CloudKitchen documents show how Travis Kalanick’s company is pivoting as new rivals enter the crowded ghost kitchen space

Full-service workers had higher average satisfaction scores than fast-food workers. The analysts tracked scores from 2019 to 2021 to see changes over time. Jack in the Box and Taco Bell had the greatest improvement in employee satisfaction, while Chipotle and Popeyes declined. UBS also noted that Chipotle has one of the highest wages of its competitors, and recently raised pay.

Surprisingly, overall restaurant workers’ satisfaction is higher than it was before the pandemic, UBS found. Despite workers saying they are happier, they’re quitting more than ever. The quit rate, which refers to the percentage of people who voluntarily leave their jobs over the period, reached 5.6% in April for the foodservice and accommodations sector. That number is an all-time high for the industry, according to Gordon Haskett Research Advisors, and it was more than twice the rate of the economy as a whole, not counting farming jobs.

The high quit rate is an “indication that restaurant sector employees are leaving their jobs to pursue higher wage rate opportunities – in both other sectors and other restaurant concepts,” Gordon Haskett’s analysts said in a report.

In other words, restaurant jobs didn’t necessarily get worse, but other opportunities available to workers got better. Some workers are taking these conditions as an opportunity to leave retail and restaurant jobs to get away from low pay and difficult customers, and a growing number of openings in the labor market is making it easier to transition to new careers. Some workers who were furloughed or laid off early in the pandemic may never return to fast food and customer service work.

One Starbucks worker in Atlanta told Insider that she left for a job with better pay and benefits. The final straw for leaving her job of two years, she said, was realizing how her pay compared to the increasingly pricey drinks Starbucks sells.

“It took me a literal day to find a better job,” she said.

Meanwhile, restaurants are struggling to keep jobs filled. Restaurants and stores are looking to staff up and return to normal as COVID-19 restrictions lift and the country slowly reopens. As some businesses report a lack of candidates for open positions, many are offering perks, bonuses, and benefits to new employees just to get them in for interviews.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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A Starbucks barista says he makes 15 TikTok iced white mochas a day, as staff say they’re flooded with orders for the $7 drink

A girl is drinking ice coffee in a Starbucks coffee shop.
  • Some Starbucks baristas say they’re flooded with orders for a complex iced mocha.
  • One said he’s making at least 15 of the TikTok-inspired drinks every day.
  • It’s based on Starbucks’ iced white mocha, with the whipped cream substituted for vanilla sweet cream cold foam.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“One iced white mocha with vanilla sweet cream cold foam and extra caramel drizzle.”

It may sound like a highly specific, complex coffee order – but some Starbucks workers hear it a dozen or more times a day.

Starbucks workers told Insider they’re inundated with orders for the same TikTok-inspired “secret-menu” drink. It’s based on Starbucks’ iced white mocha, but with the whipped cream substituted for vanilla sweet cream cold foam, and with an extra pump of caramel drizzle on top.

One barista in Tennessee said that he makes “at least 15” of them each day. “It’s the typical TikTok drink,” he said – “the biggest one.”

A grande version of the drink – Starbucks’ medium size – cost $7.60 to order from four separate Starbucks stores on Uber Eats.

“I cannot stress this enough, I have made it dozens of times on just a single shift for the past two to three months,” a former Starbucks shift supervisor in Baltimore said.

Both people spoke to Insider on the condition of anonymity.

Read more: These 9 food tech startups are capitalizing on the labor crunch with tools that help franchisees hire or automate the restaurant workforce

“That to me is a really funny order,” a former barista in Los Angeles said. She wanted to remain anonymous because there’s a chance she’ll work for Starbucks again, she said.

She said the cold foam had the same ingredients as whipped cream, but a “slightly different texture” because the air is whipped into it in a different way.

Sometimes baristas read the stickers wrong and made the drinks with whipped cream instead, she said. Some customers would be fine with this, but others would ask the baristas to remake the drink over what she called a “meaningless” distinction.

Baristas’ opinions are split on how good the drink tastes.

“I can’t blame the customers [for ordering it], it’s good if you’re got an extreme sweet tooth,” the former Baltimore shift supervisor said.

But a barista at a different store in Baltimore, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the drink was too sweet.

“It’s just overly sweet, definitely gross,” she said. “But people will pay $7 for that drink.”

‘The TikTok drinks are absolutely ridiculous’

When orders first started trickling through for the iced white mocha modification, the former Baltimore shift supervisor said that they were “bewildered.” But they said that they got used to making bizarre drinks with lots of modifications, they said.

“I’m just gonna accept it, and I’m just gonna make them,” they said. “My job was to just make the drinks.”

Some current and former baristas told Insider that orders for complex drinks were slowing down drive-thru times or causing confusion for mobile ordering.

A shift supervisor in Maryland said some customers added modifications “just because they’re there,” while a former Beverly Hills barista shared a photo with Insider of an iced latte she had made with 12 shots of coffee, alongside five shots of hazelnut syrup.

“The TikTok drinks are absolutely ridiculous,” Stephanie, a barista in British Columbia who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

The chain is now testing a new way for customers to order popular “secret menu” drinks through social media, but some baristas say this could add pressure and complexity to their jobs at a time when they already feel understaffed.

Do you work at Starbucks? Got a story to share? Email this reporter at gdean@insider.com. Always use a non-work phone.

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From Tesla to Workhorse, here are the 50 most popular stocks among retail investors on Robinhood

GettyImages 1291817095
Robinhood is hugely popular among day traders, putting it at the center of the GameStop frenzy

Robinhood has been the poster child of the commission-free trading movement that has drawn a new generation of investors into the stock market, and its user base skews heavily to Millennial and Gen Z investors. From iconic companies like Apple, to upstarts looking to disrupt whole industries, here are the top 50 stock picks among Robinhood users.

50. Workhorse

Workhorse Truck
Workhorse

Workhorse, the Loveland, Ohio-based electric-vehicle maker, has become a retail favorite among other auto manufacturers, like Lordstown Motors and Canoo.

49. Boeing

Inside the cockpit of Boeing 757 testbed aircraft - Honeywell Aerospace Boeing 757 testbed aircraft
Thomas Pallini/Insider

Shares of the plane-maker have rallied more than 12% so far this year.

48. Zynga

Zynga Peak
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The mobile-gaming company sees more than $1 billion in sales opportunity if it expands beyond mobile games to consoles and computers, Bloomberg reported.

47. Uber

Uber
Photo by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Shares of the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company have been barely changed so far this year.

46. United Airlines

Flying United Airlines during pandemic
Thomas Pallini/Insider

The airline slumped amid the COVID-19 pandemic but has turned around as air travel picks back up.

45. SPDR S&P 500 ETF

A number of value stocks have been surging on the S&P 500 in 2021.
Kena Betancur/VIEWpress

The ETF tracking the benchmark index has risen about 15% so far this year.

44. NVIDIA

nvidia impressive ceos 2x1
Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia. Nvidia; Skye Gould/Insider

The chip and graphics card producer has rallied more than 50% year-to-date.

43. General Motors

General Motors headquarters Detroit
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The automaker is among a slew of others in the industry that retail traders have rallied behind.

42. Coca-Cola

Coca-cola billboard
Peter Macdiarmid/Reuters

Shares of the Atlanta-based beverage company have rebounded from a slump earlier this year.

41. Vanguard S&P 500 ETF

Vanguard vs Fidelity
MoMo Productions

The exchange-traded fund has rallied 14% so far this year.

40. Norwegian Cruise Line

The Norwegian Prima cruise ship
Norwegian Cruise Line

The cruise industry was hit hard amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but shares of cruise operators are on the rebound as the world reopens.

39. Ideanomics

GettyImages 539998802
P. Steeger/Getty Images

Ideanomics, a small company focused on sustainability, has rallied alongside other meme stocks like GameStop this year.

38. Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic

The space tourism company has been a focus among Reddit retail traders for months. Shares soared in May after the company announced its successful test flight.

37. FuelCell Energy

fuel cell
REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

The Danbury, Connecticut-based company creates “clean, efficient and affordable fuel cell solutions,” according to its website.

36. AT&T

AT&T
Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The media and telecommunications company based in Dallas is among retail-trader favorites on Robinhood.

35. Moderna

woman getting vaccine
A physician injects someone with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

Moderna shares have rallied in recent days since the pharmaceutical company announced its COVID-19 vaccine should work against the Delta variant.

34. Starbucks

A Starbucks barista makes coffee in Florida.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The popular Seattle-based coffee maker recently added oat milk-based drinks to its menu.

33. Twitter

Twitter logo over computer
NurPhoto/Getty Images

The social-media site has been a hub for retail traders exchanging ideas this year.

32. Advanced Micro Devices

austin amd
Jack Plunkett/AP

Advanced Micro Devices, a semiconductor company, is frequently mentioned on Reddit investing threads like Wall Street Bets.

31. Canopy Growth

canopy growth
REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The Canadian cannabis company is one of a handful of its kind that are among retail-trader favorites.

30. Facebook

facebook logo
Getty

The social media behemoth is now worth more than $1 trillion after a federal judge dismissed antitrust lawsuits against the company.

29. Tilray

Tilray marijuana
Tilray

The Canadian cannabis company has seen a lot of Reddit hype as retail investors look to position themselves for the possibility of legalization in the US.

28. Coinbase Global

The photo shows physical imitations of cryptocurrency
INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

Coinbase was the first major cryptocurrency exchange to go public on April 14.

27. Bank of America

BofA logo
Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Shares of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank have rallied about 36% so far this year.

26. OrganiGram

weed thc marijuana cbd cannabis
Olena Ruban/Getty Images

The Canadian cannabis company is one of several retail traders have hyped up.

25. Alibaba

alibaba jack ma NYSE
Alibaba went public on the NYSE in 2014. Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Shares of the Chinese e-commerce company have fallen about 2.6% this year.

24. Netflix

netflix
Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images

The streaming site recently launched an e-commerce store to sell items from popular shows like “The Witcher.”

23. Snap Inc.

Snapchat messaging application.JPG
REUTERS/Thomas White

Shares of the social site have rallied about 35% so far this year.

22. Delta Airlines

Delta Air Lines Airbus A320
A Delta Air Lines Airbus A320. Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock.com

The airline is among several others that struggled during the pandemic but has begun to rebound.

21. Churchill Capital Corp IV

money
Boonchai Wedmakawand/Getty Images

Shares of the special-purpose acquisition company have nearly tripled in price since going public earlier this year.

20. Palantir

Alex Karp - CEO of Palantir Alex Karp speaks to the press as he leaves the Elysee Palace in Paris, on May 23, 2018 after the "Tech for Good" summit, in Paris, France, on May 23, 2018.
Palantir CEO Alex Karp. Photo by Julien Mattia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Palantir CEO Alex Karp said the surveillance company is a favorite stock pick because the company respects the intelligence of the retail-trading community.

19. GoPro

GoPro Inc's founder and CEO Nick Woodman holds a GoPro camera in his mouth as he celebrates GoPro Inc's IPO at the Nasdaq Market Site in New York City, June 26, 2014.  REUTERS/Mike Segar
GoPro Inc’s founder and CEO Woodman holds a GoPro camera in his mouth as he celebrates GoPro Inc’s IPO at the Nasdaq Market Site in New York City. Thomson Reuters

The maker of wearable cameras has rallied 38% so far this year.

18. Zomedica

veterinarian
Westend61/Getty Images

The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company is focused on helping meet the needs of veterinarians, according to its website.

17. GameStop

gamestop store
John Minchillo/AP

GameStop was recently added to the Russell 1000 Index, a list of the largest companies based on market capitalization, thanks to its epic rally pushed by retail investors.

16. Carnival

carnival cruise
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The cruise line industry shuttered amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but operators like Carnival are making a comeback as the pandemic recedes.

15. Aurora Cannabis

Aurora Cannabis
Alberta Cannabis Inc/Handout via REUTERS

Aurora is another Canadia cannabis company that retail traders have flocked to amid excitement over potential legalization in the US.

14. Pfizer

pfizer vaccine us
Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The pharmaceutical company has surged in popularity, largely thanks to the production of its COVID-19 vaccine.

13. Nokia

FILE PHOTO: Visitors gather outside the Nokia booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo
Reuters

Nokia has been looped into the basket of meme-stocks, like GameStop and AMC, that have gripped retail-traders attention this year.

12. Plug Power

Saudi Aramco hydrogen fueling station
Photo by Wang Haizhou/Xinhua via Getty Images

Plug Power, based in Latham, New York, is focused on creating hydrogen fuel cells to power vehicles.

11. American Airlines

American Airlines tails
American Airlines’ planes parked at a gate in Washington. Joshua Roberts/Reuters

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline has rallied about 35% year-to-date.

10. Amazon

amazon warehouse truck shipping
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

The e-commerce giant is among the biggest companies in the world with a $1.7 trillion market capitalization.

9. Microsoft

Satya Nadella
Satya Nadella is the CEO of Microsoft. Sean Gallup: Getty Images

Microsoft is among the largest companies in the world with a $2 trillion market capitalization.

8. Disney

Disney World
The Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World, Florida. Roberto Machado Noa / LightRocket via Getty Images

Shares of the media and entertainment conglomerate have dropped about 3% so far this year.

7. NIO

Nio
STR/AFP via Getty Images

The Chinese electric-vehicle maker has rallied more than 600% in the past year.

6. General Electric

GE.
General Electric reports strong earnings. Hussein Faleh/Getty Images

Shares of the long-time company have been on the rise this year, rallying about 25%.

5. Ford

Biden Ford
President Joe Biden drives the new electric Ford F-150 lightning at the Ford Dearborn Development Center in Dearborn, Michigan on May 18, 2021. Nicholas Kamm/Associated Press

The legacy automaker garnered attention earlier this year when President Joe Biden floored one of its electric trucks.

4. Sundial Growers

Marijuana Cannabis
AP Photo/Steven Senne, File

Sundial, among other Canadian cannabis companies, is a favorite among retail traders.

3. AMC Entertainment

AMC stock
Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

AMC Entertainment became a retail-trader favorite earlier this year, and led a rally in memes last month amid renewed interest in meme stocks.

2. Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook. Karl Mondon/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images

The iPhone maker is the most valuable company in the world with a market cap of more than $2 trillion.

1. Tesla

Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks during the unveiling of the new Tesla Model Y in Hawthorne, California on March 14, 2019.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Tesla’s Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has captured retail-trader attention in both his company and in the realm of cryptocurrencies.

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Starbucks’ embrace of viral social media drinks is infuriating some baristas

Starbucks barista makes mobile orders
Starbucks barista.

  • Starbucks is testing a new way for customers to order popular drinks from social media.
  • Baristas say the drinks are nearly impossible to make with current staff and ingredient shortages.
  • Starbucks says it chose the two initial drinks to reduce complexity.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Starbucks is testing a new way for customers to order popular drinks through social media, and some baristas are not happy.

The coffee chain just launched a limited test that will let some customers order the off-menu drinks through Facebook and Instagram, according to an internal memo viewed by Insider. The program spotlights a recent trend of customers ordering elaborate Starbucks drinks and sharing the recipes on social media, so others can replicate the concoctions. The program will at first be limited to two such drinks: the Pink Drink Remixed and the Moon Drink.

Insider spoke with four current and recent Starbucks workers, who said that the test could add pressure and complexity to their jobs at a time when they already feel understaffed.

The Pink Drink Remixed is a venti Pink Drink – a Strawberry Acai Refresher with coconut milk – topped with Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Foam. The Moon Drink is made up of a grande iced matcha latte and two pumps of chai. They will cost $6.25 and $5.55, respectively. The two drinks were selected to “reduce complexity but still test the function,” a Starbucks spokesperson said.

Some Starbucks baristas have spoken out in various outlets about the difficulty posed by drinks that get popular on TikTok and other social media platforms.

“Custom drinks from social media like TikTok are also increasing the need for labor. These drinks are getting more and more complicated,” one Pennsylvania supervisor previously told Insider.

Starbucks says the test could make things easier for workers.

“Testing a solution that gives customers and partners a way to easily order popular social media beverage customizations is just one example of our approach,” a Starbucks spokesperson said. “This test was created with input from baristas and the beverages selected for the test are not complex builds. The test size is intentionally limited in order to not impede lines or create complex beverages.”

As elaborate drink orders become popular on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, baristas acknowledged that tapping into those trends is a smart business move.

“They’re totally cashing in on social media viral drink trends,” one Starbucks employee in Seattle, who asked to remain anonymous due to fears of retaliation, told Insider. He said he is “livid” about the test.

“What they aren’t taking into account is the toll it will have on their baristas,” he told Insider. The barista said his store feels understaffed and overworked, and that the company should address more pressing needs like additional staffing, training, and updated store designs, instead of making it easier to order potentially complex drinks through social media.

Read more: Mutiny at Great Jones: How a cofounder war led every employee to quit Instagram’s trendiest cookware company

A Texas Starbucks worker of five years, Bailey, told Insider he quit the chain recently due to what he described as increasingly overwhelming demands.

“Now, with the way they want to do all these modifications, not to mention promoting it and encouraging it from customers,” drive-thru times will get even worse, he told Insider. The combination of drive-thru, in-store, and mobile orders made it impossible to stick to the standards set by corporate, he said, while growing wait times and shortages lead to angry customers.

The Seattle worker also said he worried that the program could lead to further ingredient shortages, which tend to lead to more frustrated customers.

“I haven’t seen strawberry inclusions in weeks,” he said, which goes into the base of the Pink Drink Remixed, one of the promoted beverages.

Customization has become increasingly crucial to Starbucks’ brand, especially as the chain relies on fewer customers who spend more money on drinks. In the second quarter of 2021, US same-store sales increased by 9% despite a 10% decline in the number of transactions. The growth was driven by a 22% increase in average ticket size as orders grow larger and more complicated.

“They have a ton of customization, and that’s not going away. They believe it’s a strength,” Kalinowski Equity Research founder Mark Kalinowski told Insider in a previous interview. As most other fast-food chains are cutting menus to become more efficient, he doesn’t expect Starbucks to follow the trend. “Customization is much more meaningful for Starbucks,” than speed Kalinowski said, even if it means slightly longer waits.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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A Subway ran out of roast beef, a Chipotle ran out of carnitas, and a Wendy’s was low on lettuce, as fast-food chains grapple with supply shortages for key ingredients

Subway roast beef sandwich
A beef sandwich from Subway fast food outlet.

  • Wendy’s, Subway, and Chipotle are among the fast-food chains hit by supply-chain issues.
  • Reuters reported that all three chains, along with Subway, ran out of key ingredients at some locations.
  • A Chipotle ran out of barbacoa and carnitas, while a Subway ran out of roast beef, per the report.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Restaurants and retailers around the US are grappling with a supply-chain crisis for some of their key ingredients.

A recent Reuters report found that at least nine restaurants and fast-food chains, including Subway and Chipotle, were out of stock in some items at certain locations.

A Wendy’s franchisee in the south told Reuters that it had received only half of the lettuce it had ordered. A Subway location in New York was out of roast beef, rotisserie chicken, ketchup, and spicy mustard, it told Reuters.

One Chipotle store in New Jersey had no barbacoa or carnitas during a busy lunchtime slot on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, a Starbucks in upstate New York told Reuters that it had been short on various items for several months, including green iced tea and cinnamon dolce syrup. Earlier this month, Insider’s Mary Meisenzahl reported on a leaked Starbucks memo that said the coffee chain would stop ordering at least 25 items because of supply-chain issues. A spokesperson for the company told Reuters that these shortages were temporary, and varied by store.

A breakdown in the freight supply chain along with trucker shortages and the labor crisis have combined to create problems for retailers and restaurants. Some have had to raise prices as a result.

Earlier this month, burrito chain Chipotle said it was putting prices up across its menu by 4% to offset wage hikes and the rising cost of ingredients, such as avocados and corn, that were hit by shipping delays.

Red Robin and Cracker Barrel have also increased prices by about 3%, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Experts say the supply chain crisis will last well into 2022 and it likely won’t stop until we have widespread vaccination, new shipping containers, and a drop-off in demand.

If you’re a retailer or restaurant dealing with supply issues please contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (646) 768-4716 using a non-work phone, by email to mhanbury@businessinsider.com, or Twitter DM at @MarySHanbury.

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