Debunking the myth of the Starbucks secret menu.

Debunking the myth of the Starbucks secret menu.

It has been in the news that there is a Starbucks “secret” menu.  An example such a  story is here.  My position is that there is no such thing as a “secret menu,” and I’m trying to debunk that myth.

Starbucks has built its business on the idea that a customer can customize beverages to an extreme degree.  Because beverage customization is encouraged, there is nothing to stop  highly creative baristas and customers from coming up with beverage combinations that are well-liked by many.

The problem with a “secret menu” is that it implies that there is some standardization to customized drink recipes which simply does not exist!  In other words, if I walk up to the register and order a “tall peppermint hot chocolate,” I will receive the same beverage whether I am in Seattle, Anaheim, or Boston.  Baristas will follow a standardized official Starbucks recipe for a “peppermint hot chocolate,” and it is going to be the same everywhere I go.  There are only so many official, standard drink recipes.

This doesn’t mean that a customer cannot order something unique.  For example, partners have said to me, “Melody, you should try toffeenut syrup in a Strawberry smoothie!”  This would create something close to the “Captain Crunch” recipe described in “Starbucks “secret” menu“.  However, and this is important, if I walked up to the register and said, “I’d like a Captain Crunch Smoothie” the only thing I would do is create confusion.  Different stores will have different ideas about what this will mean:  Some stores may think this means just a single added pump or two of toffeenut.  Other stores may think this means some combination of toffeenut and hazelnut.  Other baristas will look at you blankly and say, “I’ve never heard of a Captain Crunch smoothie.”

The real moral of the story is that if you, the customer, want to try a customized drink you should be prepared to learn how to order it to be able to get the same thing twice.  In other words, it behooves you to learn to say, “I’d like a tall Strawberry Frappuccino with 2 pumps of toffee nut.

I’m not very creative at coming up with unique drinks.  Some baristas are gifted at this.  One barista highly recommended that I try a “Chocolate Smoothie with White Mocha instead of Mocha, add Java Chips, and substitute Soy Milk.”  That is a delicious drink!  It tastes a bit like an Oreo Cookie.  However, if I tried ordering “an Oreo Cookie smoothie,” I’d be met with blank stares.

I saw this “idea” on MyStarbucksIdea.com and I was reminded of the problems with the secret menu:

The author of the above MyStarbucksIdea.com thread writes:

  • I heard of a cake batter frappuccino on the secret menu but every time I have tried to order this the barista looks at me like I’m crazy! Is there really a secret menu? And why would barista in at least five locations not know about it? From what I have seen almond syrup should be used, not toffee nut syrup. If this drink was tried as a promotion frap it would be a hit!
    Try this one out Starbucks!

That above thread inspired this blog post.  It is such a perfect example of the problems created by a “secret” menu that does not really exist!

In summary, customers please know your drink!  Ask your baristas for their suggestions for new drink combinations.  But if you simply order a drink by a “secret” name, you’ll run the risk of any or all of the following:

1.  The drink will be very inconsistent from store to store.

2.  Many baristas will have no idea what you mean.

3.  You may be trying to order a drink that is not possible to make:  The syrup and sauce offerings change frequently.  For example, Almond hasn’t been available on the menu since 2008.

4.  You may find that your Starbucks experience feels frustrating and confusing, and you don’t know why.

By the way, it is super obvious that the Starbucks “secret” menu in this news article is not real.  Starbucks would not put out an official menu with “Frappuccino” incorrectly spelled, or incorrectly referred to as a “Frappe.”  Notice that on the official Starbucks Frappuccino page, Starbucks is careful to remember to put the registered-trademark symbol after the word Frappuccino.

I don’t mean to disappoint many customers who wanted to try something new.  By all means, experiment away!  Just learn how to order it.  And when in doubt, talk to your barista about the kind of flavor you’re looking for, but don’t expect that your barista has some magical recipe for a “secret” drink.

This is an open thread.  Feel free to talk about anything Starbucks-related.

 

Post to Twitter

72 Comments

  1. purple1
    May 25, 2012 @ 05:51:38

    Melody will followup with the email and yes I know exactly where the store is and frankly it is sort of odd that they could not find it. Will keep you up to date.

    Reply

  2. denise r
    May 25, 2012 @ 06:21:11

    @Sbux_Rich: thanx for your comments. I became aware of the return of the doubleshot button on the pos a few weeks ago, and I’m glad too. The only thing that I still run into (once in a while!) when ordering it is: it’s rung up at one end, and they know there’s now a button for it once again but then if the barista doesn’t know the exact order of making it (ie: plz don’t shake it AFTER you add the milk, etc) then..they’re still lacking. But, I agree…it’s a step in the right direction of the ‘doubleshot’!

    Reply

  3. Starbucks ‘Secret’ Menu is False » rob's place
    Jun 13, 2012 @ 16:31:25

    […] pumps of syrup you desire (BTW, in Starbuckian, a shot refers to espresso, a pump refers to syrup). Starbucks Melody tries her hand at debunking the secret menu and she’s […]

    Reply

  4. kitenarie
    Jun 17, 2012 @ 17:31:09

    I realize I’m kind of going back in time here, but “Just Say Yes” does not apply to cross contamination of allergens. There is absolutely no way that a Vanilla Almond or Cherry Walnut Biscotti should be put in the blender – it is a recipe for disaster, particularly with nut allergies.

    Melody – thanks for this post. I had a regular walk in to my store and order a “Red Tuxedo” once. I laughed and asked if he had been on Yahoo recently, and told him how to actually order it so that he gets what he wants.

    Reply

  5. Melody
    Jun 17, 2012 @ 17:39:33

    Kitenarie – Wait till you hear this one – So I was in California for about four days and I was at the Starbucks near my mom’s house, on the corner of Meats Avenue and Tustin Avenue in Orange. Actually, the SM and ASM in this store both know me and recognize me when I come in this store. I told the bar barista that I am a “Starbucks blogger” and some other customer behind me calls out, “I am too!! I have a Starbucks blog!”

    Now this caught my attention! It is amazing to me that this blog has any readers because there are a number of other Starbucks bloggers out there. This guy, “Chris” tells me that he goes around and is trying to write reviews of all the Orange County Starbucks. And I kid you not, he said to me, “I quiz the baristas on the coffee and the secret menu.”

    Holy sh*t. I nearly fainted. And then I went and looked at his blog, and he does kind of expect to be able to quiz register baristas about what is in secret menu drinks. One of the Meats and Tustin Avenue partners told me that he got quizzed about the Captain Crunch Frappuccino.

    Seriously??????? Here’s his blog, if you want to look. http://musdeo.tumblr.com/

    Reply

  6. kitenarie
    Jun 17, 2012 @ 18:08:45

    Melody… that makes me want to cry…

    Reply

  7. purple1
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 04:08:19

    Melody went to this link for that person’s blog and OMG what a shame there is a blog out there like this. I can only say you should be very proud of your blog when you see something like this blog. How can anyone reasonably put this out? I guess there is no real answer to that question. Anyway, again thanks Melody for the blog you write.

    Reply

  8. Eva
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 16:06:06

    Thank you for debunking this! I’ve worked at Starbucks for 5 years and have seen this article repeated in many different iterations in many different newspapers, and online news sources such as Huffington Post, Fox News and The Consumerist!

    Despite my best efforts to tell my friends on Facebook and Twitter there is no “secret meu” and some items are just customized drinks, while others are very old promotional drinks that are no longer on the menu, and the “short” size is not a secret, they don’t believe me! Even though I have worked there 5 years… It’s amazing what people will believe if it comes from a “credible” news source, regardless of what people you personally know and trust tell you.

    Reply

  9. marshall
    Jul 09, 2012 @ 08:57:03

    I’m experiencing a lot of inconsistancies in drinks, especially Mocha Frappes. These vary all over the map, even from the same store. I’ve been given many cookie cutter responses about drink recipes. Regardless, many of the Mocha Frappes I get are insipid, watery, and some taste more like a mild vanilla drink. Honestly, training, or even quality standards, are not what they could be.
    Starbucks drinks are quite costly, and customers deserve good value for their money, which in my book means a lot of flavor, even from a stock drink. But the main ingredient in all their drinks is water, and the flavors very easily get “watered down”, especially if the drink is executed poorly.
    I expect no change from Starbucks production level quality. I’ve already boycotted one store, because they just don’t get it right often enough. Very disappointing. I my start making my own…

    Reply

  10. kate
    Aug 26, 2012 @ 14:25:05

    thank you for posting something about this! i dont mind if people order a custom drink but it really does get on my nerves when they come in and act like there is some sort of menu that we are keeping hidden from them! people need to know that we have a basic everyday menu that they can choose from and they can customize drinks from there.

    Reply

  11. k
    Apr 06, 2013 @ 19:49:00

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for posting this! There is NO SECRET MENU! Yes, we do know how to make drinks taste like certain things that you may ask for, but half the time we have no idea what you speak of. It is best to just know what goes into it so you can tell us what you want without needing a “secret” or most of the time ridiculous name to call it…

    Sincerely, a Starbucks barista. (:

    Reply

  12. Michael
    Sep 03, 2013 @ 11:03:00

    I had a group of kids ask me for sour gummy worm refreshers the other day.. that one was intresting. lol.

    Reply

  13. Sarah
    Nov 17, 2013 @ 21:50:36

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post!! As a 6 year partner, I’m perpetually annoyed by customers coming up to the counter and asking for items off the secret menu and then getting super annoyed when I have absolutely no clue what the drink is or how to make it. I’ve had four friends ask me within the last week about the Harry Potter Butterbeer frappuccino. While this DOES sound intriguing, one of my friends didn’t believe me when I explained that there is no secret menu and said, “You’re just told to say that, didn’t you see the blog on the Chipotle secret menu??” I directed her to both your blog and the actual Starbucks secret menu website which says “Created for Starbucks fans by Starbucks fans,” has no Starbucks logo with a TM on it, and has a disclaimer on the bottom. I think she still didn’t believe me!!

    Reply

  14. Jack
    Jan 20, 2014 @ 02:56:01

    I recently came across this whole secret menu thing linking from a McDonalds secret menu claim and frankly everything I read made me want to write an article pretty much identical to yours. I came across that same secret menu image you have linked and that was what i thought was particularly bad. to an uninformed person that looks like an official starbucks menu that would be passed around stores. to anyone with a bit of an idea about design and corporate marketing would straight away realise there is no small print, the fonts are not quite right and the colouring of the header is not correctly matched to the logo, but because someone has tried to make it look like it might be from starbucks (probably not maliciously, just to make it look appealing) they have set up for Starbucks staff and customers to look foolish.

    Reply

  15. Lisa Olivieri
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 08:56:15

    Well said !!!! The other thing I have noticed with the so called”secret menu” is there are items no longer used by Starbucks on that menu for example Almond Syrup, Coconut Syrup and some of the items are only seasonal so they are not always available all year round. The one other item you did not touch on is that for each customized item you add to a base price Frappuccino is an additional price. Funny story I had a mother come in with her daughter and two of her friends and each one order a frappuccino ended up being over $6.00 dollars each, the mother was so shocked at her total that she turned to her daughter and said, ” I hope these drinks fill you up because that’s your dinner, I do not ave money for both.”

    Reply

  16. kay
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 09:01:27

    I know that at my store we get the secret menu all the time from experimental students. We just ask them to bring up the receipe on their smart phone. that way it can be consistent. Just note the secret ones tend to be pretty expensive. Imagine a barista making something fun and delisius up, they get a free partner beverage and don’t have to think about the addative ($) inclusions.

    Reply

  17. Serina
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 09:50:58

    As a barista i actually don’t mind the secret menu items so much. Reason is that they tend to be the most expensive drinks, they are usually frappuccinos with lots of extras. So which ever teenagers on the internet that posted the secret menus on the internet has increased business ; ). The downfall is definitely all the confusion it has created. Learning to order correctly with ingredients we currently have is a must. There have been times were customers have said to us “well it’s your secret menu” or “can’t you look it up online” when we’ve asked them to explain their drink receipe…

    Reply

  18. @omgitsjen
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 12:34:48

    THANK YOU FOR THIS!!! omg

    Reply

  19. Ethan M.
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 14:26:10

    I don’t mind the secret menu. I do mind people who take out their frustration with the fact that they assumed it was corporate on the baristas. Being rude, customer or barista, is never okay. I know the recipes that I like: Captain Crunch and Cotton Candy, but otherwise appreciate the recipe in front of me. I’ve had customers(teenagers) bring in printed copies of recipes. If a teenager can provide the recipe, there is no excuse for an adult not to. Here’s the thing, the “secret menu” lists ingredients and increments. When the hell have you ever seen that on an official Sbux ad or material that IS solely for the public? You haven’t. There is a reason the ingredients are listed for all the world to see, because it ain’t official Sbux.

    Reply

  20. Andrew in San Diego
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 22:15:27

    I will intentionally play stupid when someone comes to me and says, “Caigedda capncrunch frapp?” If someone has the decency to say, “Hey, I’ve heard of a drink that tastes like [whatever],” then I’ll utilize my resources (Partner Portal, other partners) to see if I can help them. If they assume that I’m a walking coffee encyclopedia, forget it.

    Reply

  21. Marge
    Apr 25, 2014 @ 06:33:43

    I once had a customer verbally abuse me because I didn’t know what a “butter beer frappuccino” was. She screamed at me that “her” store makes it for her all he time. This, I think, is why communication between partners and customers is so important. If that store had just told the woman what was in the frappuccino and that not all stores will know how to make it, the whole thing could have been avoided. Of course, if the woman had some common courtesy, the whole thing might have been avoided as well.

    Reply

  22. Leanna
    Jul 22, 2014 @ 14:21:36

    I am a partner in the UK, we don’t just get people coming in expecting us to understand what they’re talking about when referring to secret menu drinks but also rage when we explain that most of the drinks on the list aren’t possible in the UK due to having a much smaller selection of syrups as well as other add-ins to drinks.
    The number of people who come in asking for thing they’ve heard of or read about on the internet is actually surprising especially for things as simple as cinnamon syrup (which we don’t have) or seasonal drinks 6 months + after they are no longer on the menu!

    Reply

Leave a Reply