- 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.
"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 [email protected] Always use a non-work email.