Starbucks baristas say they’re fed up with complex custom drink orders that can verge on the ridiculous. One said they were asked to blend egg bites into a drink.

Starbucks store in Hong Kong
“There are no limits to what people can really order,” a current Baltimore barista said.

  • Insider spoke with over a dozen current and former Starbucks baristas who said they were sick of getting complex orders.
  • Baristas said many would taste “disgusting” and slow order times. Some are based on TikTok trends.
  • A Starbucks rep told Insider most custom orders were simple and the company valued customization.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Starbucks customers in some cases are pushing drink customization to the limit with modifications that some baristas deem “excessive,” “ridiculous,” and “disgusting.”

More than a dozen current and former baristas across the US and Canada told Insider they were sick of making overly complicated lattes, cold brews, and Refreshers, including so-called TikTok drinks like the $7 iced white mocha.

Most custom drink orders aren’t complicated. A Starbucks representative told Insider that 75% of customized beverages at Starbucks had fewer than three unique modifications.

But the baristas said complex drinks slowed down order times and customers sometimes got angry when their customized drinks weren’t made perfectly.

This could be a particular issue with mobile orders, they said, adding that customers’ requests on the Starbucks app could sometimes be confusing.

‘The modifications are out of control’

“There are no limits to what people can really order,” a current Baltimore barista said.

“Some of the things I see are just disgusting,” a former Los Angeles barista said.

They said that some drinks had “mile-long stickers” listing order customizations and that sometimes there wouldn’t be enough space to fit everything in the cup. Under company policy, custom drinks still have to fit in the cup size customers request.

Read more: How Subway cofounder Fred DeLuca sent the world’s biggest fast-food chain into a tailspin

“I’ve made Frappuccinos before that literally did not have room for milk in them,” the former Los Angeles barista said. “The modifications are out of control.”

Some of the baristas said people had ordered drinks with 20 or more pumps of syrup. Nat El-Hai, a former barista in Beverly Hills, California, shared a photo with Insider of an iced latte she said she made for a customer with 12 shots of coffee and five shots of hazelnut syrup.

The former Los Angeles barista said one customer ordered an “absolutely ridiculous” drink topped with whipped cream, nonfat cold foam, and sweet-cream cold foam.

“People think that the more they add the more fancy they’re being, but there’s definitely a point of diminishing returns,” the person said. “I can’t imagine someone ordering that drink and finishing it.”

Numerous baristas said they had turned down customers’ requests for cake pops and brownies blended into drinks, and one said she had even been asked to blend egg bites into a drink.

El-Hai told Insider that one customer even asked her to blend banana and milk together and then use that as a base for a latte.

She said some customers showed her drink pictures they found online that had “clearly” been edited. “And then people got really upset when we can’t do that,” she said.

Starbucks staff members generally have targets of around 45 seconds for each drive-thru order. Large numbers of modifications slow baristas down, Sarah Ann Austin, a North Carolina barista, said.

A Starbucks representative said: “We ask our baristas to make the moment right no matter the order and would expect a highly customized beverage to take longer to make.”

Eric Fellner, a former barista in North Carolina, said that complex requests would “totally screw with you” by deviating from Starbucks’ standard base recipes.

“The reason why it causes such an issue is that everything is based on times,” he said. “The whole thing is about being as fast as possible, and so in order for that to work, everything has to be systematic.”

“If a drink looks complicated, assume that it’s complicated,” a current barista in British Columbia said.

The Starbucks representative told Insider that most customizations were reasonable requests from customers.

The representative added: “Customizing beverages at Starbucks and our baristas’ expertise in helping customers find and craft the right beverage has and always will be at the heart of the Starbucks experience.”

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

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A Black former Starbucks employee claims managers didn’t protect him from a customer who repeatedly called him a ‘n—–.’ He’s suing the company.

Starbucks store in Hong Kong
Dayshawn Rodriguez claims Starbucks managers “did nothing” to stop him being racially abused by a customer.

  • A former Starbucks worker claims the company didn’t protect him from verbal racial attacks.
  • The customer called him a ‘n—–‘ on several occasions, he says in a legal complaint.
  • Starbucks said it had banned the customer from stores in the area.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Black former shift supervisor at a Starbucks in Connecticut has sued the chain, claiming that it failed to protect him from a customer who attacked him with racial slurs.

Dayshawn Rodriguez said in his complaint in the District of Connecticut court, first filed in May but revised in July, that he was repeatedly verbally harassed by a customer who called him a ‘n—–.’

Read more: Fast-food workers are gaining millions of TikTok followers with on-the-job videos, but the trend has muddied the relationship between brands, creators, and consumers

Rodriguez said he worked at Starbucks for about five years. He said in his complaint that the customer was in the restroom for “quite some time” after he closed the store in Westport, Connecticut, on October 7, 2019. He said he knocked on the door to check on the customer and she came out, poked him in the chest, and said “don’t rush me n—–,” per the complaint.

Rodriguez said he informed the store manager, who said that she would inform the district manager, but that “they did nothing to stop or address the conduct.”

Around a week later, Rodriguez told his district manager that he didn’t want to serve the customer anymore, but they said it wasn’t possible, per the complaint. Rodriguez said that later that month the district manager told him “that I may be too sensitive to be a shift supervisor and said the N-word is not the worst thing to be called.”

Rodriguez said in the complaint that “I later demoted myself to barista.”

On a later occasion, the customer returned to the store, threw water on herself, pointed at Rodriguez and said “that Black man did it,” the complaint says.

Rodriguez said that he filed an incident report after taking advice from his manager, but that his district manager told him afterwards to “watch” how he writes things and that he couldn’t use the N-word or curse words in the report. She also said that she wasn’t able to ban the customer, per the complaint.

In June 2020, the customer visited the store again and said “I am not going to be served by this n—–,” per the legal complaint. Rodriguez said that he reported this to upper management but that “they did nothing to protect me.”

Rodriguez said he left his job shortly after the incident.

He said that he contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had granted him the right to sue Starbucks. He is claiming monetary damages including statutory damages, wages, and “damages for emotional distress and embarrassment,” without specifying an amount.

A Starbucks spokesperson told Insider that its stores were “a place of community, where everyone is welcome, provided they contribute to a positive environment and an enjoyable experience.”

The spokesperson said: “We thoroughly investigated the matter alongside local law enforcement when this was raised in [August] 2020, and have taken appropriate action to ensure the safety of our partners – which includes the formal restriction of the customer from our stores in the area.”

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

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Starbucks is giving baristas a raise and increasing minimum wage to $12 in US stores in October

barista writing on coffee
  • Starbucks is raising wages for baristas and increasing the minimum wage.
  • Starbucks moved up the timeline for raises from January to October.
  • Chipotle and McDonald’s recently raised wages to attract workers in the labor shortage.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Starbucks will give hourly workers a raise this October, and raise the minimum wage to at least $12 in all stores.

Employees hired before July 2021 will receive a 5% raise, with tenured partners getting a 6% raise. Starbucks will also raise the minimum wage in all markets to at least $12, and up to or above $15 in some markets, a Starbucks spokesperson told Insider.

Starbucks previously gave US workers raises in December 2020, with an increase of at least 10% for all baristas, supervisors, and cafe attendants, Kate Taylor reported for Insider. The coffee chain also bumped starting wages by 5% and increased the amount that Starbucks pays over the local minimum wage in all markets. More than half of Starbucks workers already make $15 or more, Starbucks confirmed.

At the time, Rossann Williams, the president of Starbucks’ company-owned US stores called the move “one of the most substantial investments in pay in our company’s history.”

Read more: Strikes, mass quitting, and rage: We talked to workers who were fed up with terrible conditions and are fighting back

The upcoming October raises are accelerated plans originally intended for January 2022. They’re part of a plan to reach a minimum wage of $15 for all workers in the next two to three years, the spokesperson said.

Workers have left the retail industry this year to escape difficult customers and low pay. Dozens of customer-facing retail workers have told Insider about quitting their jobs over fatigue, harassment from customers, and fear of contracting COVID-19.

Difficulty staffing stores has led fast-food chains to raise wages for workers. In May, Chipotle announced it was increasing hourly wages, bringing the average pay up to about $15 an hour. That’s $2 more an hour than the chain’s current average of $13 an hour, Chipotle told Insider.

Increasing wages helped Chipotle deal with the labor shortage. The chain told Insider it received over 24,000 applications for 20,000 positions a week after it announced higher wages. McDonald’s also raised wages by about 10% in company-owned stores, and the chain says it’s nearly back to being fully staffed, Juliana Kaplan reported for Insider.

Other chains have held hiring events, added extra benefits, and given out bonuses for interviewing.

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

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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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