Love it or love to hate it, Starbucks has established itself as a mainstay in United States coffee culture. You can find the famous green sign on street corners in nearly every city in the USA, sometimes hardly a block away from the next branch.
Starbucks is a go-to meeting spot, a place you can sit comfortably and get some work done while sipping on your favorite coffee drink, and a quick stop when you need a coffee on the go. In addition to its notoriously dark-roasted coffee (and pumpkin spice lattes), Starbucks is known for its baked goods including cookies, bagels, scones, and more.
When you order a frappuccino at Starbucks, you give the barista your name, and you know you’ve picked up the correct drink when you see your name (most likely misspelled) printed on the cup.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to stand behind the counter at Starbucks? Well, it turns out that there are a whole lot of rules that come with working at the famed coffee chain. Here are some things that Starbucks employees are not allowed to do.
Move from their stations
You may have noticed that each person working behind the counter at Starbucks stays in one small area, repeating the same tasks over and over again. This is because Starbucks baristas are given an assignment or position and they must stay in that place for the duration of their shift.
If they want to move out of their designated area, they have to ask their supervisors, and may be told “no” for any reason. It’s efficient, but can get tedious for people who want to change things up during their shift.
Say “no” to customers
One of Starbucks’ central policies is called “just say yes”. Starbucks baristas have to agree to make customers whatever they ask for, no matter how strange, disgusting, or out of the ordinary it may be. Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule, such as certain foods that can’t be put in the blenders due to food allergies.
However, as long as the customer’s request is doable, it must be done. And Starbucks customers are known for pushing the limits, asking for complicated and bizarre additions to their coffee drinks that can really get on the nerves of employees. No matter how strange or troublesome the request, Starbucks baristas are simply not allowed to say no.
Mess with orders
We have all wondered what restaurant servers do to our food when we’re not looking. Sometimes, when customers are rude, we’re sure that their waiters are spitting in their soup or putting something unpleasant in their sandwich. At Starbucks, baristas are not permitted to do things like that. It goes against policy.
But that being said, what happens behind the counter stays behind the counter. If a customer is particularly nasty or rude, the barista might just substitute decaf coffee for regular coffee. With so many other flavors mixed into most Starbucks drinks, there’s no way for the customer to figure out what happened, or why they’re not getting the caffeine energy boost they expected.
This rule is particularly hard to follow when you’re having a bad day. It might seem strange to try to regulate the expressions on employees’ faces, but there is a rule in the employee handbook that says that customer service must be provided with a smile. If you’re caught without a smile on your face, you can be reprimanded.
In fact, customers have been known to complain to management if they are served by a barista without a smile. Apparently, Starbucks believes that smiling employees help sales, but there is not much research to back that up. Even when the cafe is really busy, baristas are expected to smile at each customer while making eye contact.
Let the dogs in
Whether or not dogs should be allowed is a point of controversy for many businesses. At Starbucks, however, it’s just plain not allowed. This could be because they’re worried about a surprise visit from the health inspector or due to the fear that having dogs around is unsanitary.
Many people feel that any pets are a health hazard where food and drinks are served because they can spread germs and bacteria, and some people are allergic. Others feel that this rule is unfair, and that bringing a dog into a cafe is a harmless thing to do. But rules are rules, and Starbucks employees often have to tell customers to leave their furry friends outside.
Use their phone
Employees at Starbucks are not allowed to use their phones during their shift. If a supervisor sees someone using their phone on the floor, they can take the phone away.
In addition, if a barista seems to be going into the back room or bathroom too often to check their phone, their supervisor can demand it. When this happens, the supervisor puts said phone in the safe, and as some safes can only be opened at certain times, it might end up being stuck there all night.
Take Christmas off
Everyone wants to have the holidays off work so they can spend time celebrating with their friends and family. However, if you work at Starbucks, that may not be a possibility.
Many branches of the popular coffee shop stay open on Christmas, so they need baristas to keep things running. It’s very difficult to have your vacation approved that time of year, since everyone wants to go home for the holidays. It can be a real bummer, especially if their family lives far away.
Post negative things about Starbucks
While some people say that all publicity is good publicity, Starbucks doesn’t believe that’s the case. They encourage employees to post positive things about the company, but if a barista is caught negatively portraying the brand online, they can be let go.
In fact, the barista behind the anti-Unicorn Frappaccino rant was nearly fired, but managed to hold onto his job in the end. The moral of the story for Starbucks employees is be careful what you post online, because it could put your job at risk.
Wear nail polish
It may seem a bit extreme to forbid employees from wearing nail polish, but there’s actually a good reason behind it. Nail polish is prone to chipping, and if that happens to a barista while they are preparing a coffee, it could end up in a customer’s drink.
That would definitely not be good for business. So in order to avoid that kind of disaster, Starbucks employees are not allowed to show up to work wearing nail polish or fake nails of any kind.
Adjust the temperature
Customers can complain to Starbucks employees all they want about the temperature inside the store, but there’s simply nothing the baristas can do about it. That’s because Starbucks management has established upper and lower temperature limits for the heating and cooling of their shops.
The employees at each branch are not permitted to adjust the temperature beyond those predetermined limits. So, if you get cold easily, you might want to bring a sweatshirt next time you’re planning to sit at Starbucks.
Stray from routine
In order to keep things running smoothly all the time, especially when things are particularly busy, baristas have to stick to a set routine. There is a “Repeatable Routine” for everything employees do, including taking orders, heating food, and making drinks.
Baristas have to memorize every step. At the beginning, they need to stay super focused in order to remember how to do everything properly, but eventually it just becomes muscle memory. This is one of the ways that Starbucks maintains an efficient enterprise.
Call in sick
Even though showing up to work sick can be a danger both to other employees and customers, baristas are encouraged to come to work anyway.
It’s technically allowed to take a sick day, but some stores have rules that baristas can only stay home if they find someone to cover their shift or bring a doctor’s note. Both of these things are easier said than done, so many employees end up just coming in to work anyway.
Ignore the details
We already mentioned that employees must stick to a strict routine, and the details of how they do things are all of the utmost importance. In fact, many people believe that this is what makes Starbucks so successful.
Everything from the way drinks are prepared to the shape of the tables is designed like that for a reason, and Starbucks is all about customer satisfaction surveys to help them improve. Baristas must always stay on top of even the smallest things while on the floor.
Keep coworkers’ mistakes a secret
When someone makes a mistake while working at Starbucks, they can’t expect their coworkers to keep it a secret. This is because in order to move up in the pecking order at the company, employees are encouraged to report their fellow baristas’ errors to their higher-ups.
When someone repeatedly does something wrong, it’s likely people will talk about it. That makes it extra important not to get on anyone’s bad side, because if you make a mistake, they’ll be sure to report you.
Show certain tattoos
For years, Starbucks employees complained about the rule that said that tattoos must be covered while on the job. People would have to wear long sleeves even on hot days so that their tattoos wouldn’t be seen by customers.
Several years ago, however, Starbucks relaxed this rule, allowing tattoos to be seen as long as they don’t contain any profanity or inappropriate images. Many baristas were thrilled with this change. However, face and neck tattoos are still not permitted.
Refuse to play along with the secret menu
Believe it or not, for a long time, the Starbucks secret menu was not a real thing. That meant that employees were not trained to make most of those extra fancy drinks that customers kept asking for.
But since they have that pesky “just say yes” policy, baristas would have to figure out a way to make the drinks anyway. Eventually, Starbucks realized that they could profit from the expensive, popular drinks, so they started training employees to make them.
Disrespect the CEO
Many employees who feel strongly about their place of work look up to their CEO. The same holds true for Starbucks, perhaps even more so because of the large scale success of the company.
Until Howard Schultz retired in 2017, he was held in high regard by employees across the board. This culture of revering the CEO was clearly visible when Schultz released a book in 2011. It was given to all Starbucks employees – for free! He is still something of a mythical figure in the company culture.
Use regular words
Starbucks is one of those companies that takes extra steps to build employee solidarity and the feeling of community. One of the ways in which they do this is by utilizing a secret language that all employees know.
We are already aware that Starbucks uses the words tall, grande, and venti instead of small, medium, and large, but there’s more. Starbucks employees are called “partners” because they believe it gives them a sense of equality and sharing in the company’s goals.
Wear bright colors
The Starbucks dress code was updated in 2016, and employees were thrilled to hear that they would have a bit more freedom when it comes to dressing for work. However, there are still many rules that they have to follow.
One of these is that the colors of their clothing must be in the “subdued” range. This includes colors like black, white, dark blue, gray, and brown. In addition, only simple, subdued patterns are allowed. Employees can also wear dark denim pants, but no light-wash jeans are permitted.
Pay for drinks while on shift
One of the best perks that comes with working at Starbucks is the free coffee. Employees get to take home a free bag of coffee every week. They can choose a pound of coffee beans, Starbucks K-Cup pods, or even a box of tea.
And while they are on shift, they get to choose a free drink and a free food item. All of that free coffee adds up, and If you really like Starbucks coffee, this benefit might be enough to convince you to get a job there.
Pay full price on their days off
Even when they’re not on shift, Starbucks employees reap the benefits of working for the coffee giant. When Starbucks workers stop by the chain on their days off, they get a 30% discount on all food and drinks.
That’s a good way to increase customer loyalty, and another reason that many coffee lovers decide to apply for a job at Starbucks. While employees at most companies don’t like hanging around their workplace when they’re not on shift, Starbucks does things differently.
You’ve probably noticed that there is a distinct smell whenever you walk into a Starbucks, and they’re very particular about keeping it that way. As a rule, employees cannot wear perfume because they feel it can mess with the aroma of the coffee.
Of course, there are so many sweet flavored syrups added to some of the coffee drinks that we can’t imagine perfume would make a big difference, but rules are rules and perfume is not allowed.
Make a mess
Whenever you go to Starbucks, you can be sure that it will be sparkling clean, and there’s a reason for that. Cleanliness is of utmost importance to Starbucks management, so much so that they have surprise checks at different branches.
Employees don’t want to be caught off guard, so they make sure that both the front and the back of the store are spotless. If issues are found during the surprise cleanliness audits, people can lose their jobs. Every employee plays a part in keeping the store spotless.
Neglect the hierarchy
As in many retail jobs, there is a clear hierarchy between the different positions. Everyone knows their place in the order of things, and the ranking is reinforced. Supervisors are encouraged to review lower-level employees’ performance, and they can report them if they feel like they are not up to standards.
Baristas are the lowest level, followed by clerk supervisors, shift supervisors, and store managers. Above them are regional managers and upper management, followed by the board of directors and finally, the CEO.
Give you too much ice
No one likes a drink filled with ice, but did you know that there’s a Starbucks hack that employees can’t say no to? The team uses ice scoops based on the size of the drink so you can ask for a scoop for a different-sized drink.
If you ask for a yellow scoop of ice, then you’ll get the scoop designed for small drinks. They can’t deny you less ice, which means more coffee for you!
Deny you Christmas
If you ask Starbucks staff for something in particular, they have to bend over backward to give it to you. Within reason, of course. While their Christmas drinks are only around in December, there is a little hack that most employees know about.
Ask for a hot chocolate with just two pumps of peppermint, and it’ll taste just like the festive season. They can’t say no, because it’s their job to make the drink of your dreams. You can thank us later!
Forget your birthday
If you walk into Starbucks and let the barista know it’s your birthday, they’re not allowed to roll their eyes and say, “Big deal,” like in some places. Oh no! Starbucks staff have to celebrate your birthday with you, whether they like it or not.
If you have a Starbucks Card or the mobile app, you can tuck into a free drink or something to eat. They might not wear a birthday hat for your big day, but they at least have to pretend to be enthusiastic.
Let your dog go thirsty
While it’s an important rule that dogs are not allowed into Starbucks, that doesn’t mean they hate your four-legged friends. Far from it! In fact, the baristas love treating your dog to something called a ‘puppuccino’ which is basically just a small serving of whipped cream.
It’s a big no-no to let your beloved pooch go thirsty, even if they do have to wait outside for you. Top tip, do this at the drive-through, so the staff gets the joys of seeing the doggo they’re about to treat!
Not enough shaking
Did you know that a lot of hard work goes into getting the perfect foam on a Starbucks iced tea? Yep, baristas who train in the art of iced tea (so all of them) have to follow the rules when it comes to how many shakes this popular drink gets.
A whole ten! However, before you start shouting at an employee for only shaking your iced tea less than that, they are allowed to speed up the process if it’s super busy. Can’t keep people waiting, of course!