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How does being a Starbucks customer work? - Words in the Heroes' Tongue
I have a variable-sword. I urge calm.
How does being a Starbucks customer work?
Can any of my American Friends help with this query?

How do you get served in a Starbucks in the USA if you're going to drink the coffee on the premises? I need to know for a scene in the Epilogue of 'The King of Elfland's Daughter' and I haven't been able to find out on the Starbucks site or by Googling. Do you order at the counter, then sit down, and is your order brought to you? Do you order at the counter, wait, and then take your order to a table? Do you sit down and a waitress comes to you (I'm pretty sure it's not this one, but not absolutely certain)? I've seen posts on Cheezburger.com implying that they write your name on your cup but I have no idea how that would work - especially as the menu on their website shows proper cups rather than paper ones. I've only ever been to a Starbucks once, and that was in York about five years ago, so I remember little about it and it probably wouldn't be relevant anyway.

If there are regional differences in the service this would be, specifically, in Washington DC.


24 comments or speak 2 me
rebcake From: rebcake Date: February 3rd, 2015 04:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I am sorry to be able to answer this. You order at the counter, give your name, which along with the order, is written on the correctly-sized paper or plastic cup (paper for hot drinks, plastic for cold), pay, and then stand around fidgeting until they call your name. You pick up your cup, doctor it with additional items (sweeteners, powdered cocoa, etc.) and then go sit down. It's not that efficient, IMO, but that's usually because they are pretty busy, so who am I to argue with success?

I don't think I've been to a Starbucks in DC, but there may be small regional differences. I'm thinking menu items, specifically. They might have more "summery" offerings in warmer places, for instance. The pastry and sandwich selection is likely to be slightly different. For instance, all the pastries in the San Francisco Bay Area are supplied by wholly-owned subsidiary La Boulange, and they are delicious, but some people complained that the iced lemon cake went away. So they brought back that one item. It was always available in Oregon and Illinois.

I don't recall ever seeing them use real (i.e. washable) cups or mugs. They do sell those as merchandise, and I'm pretty sure they will put your drink into a reusable container if you hand it to them.

Ahem. I seem to have a lot to say about this. *sigh*
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speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 4th, 2015 04:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
shipperx From: shipperx Date: February 3rd, 2015 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
They have a reusable plastic one you can buy for $1 that you can bring back and which include free refills of plain coffee.

Regionally(?). They serve iced tea in the summer in the South.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 4th, 2015 04:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 4th, 2015 04:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! That's what I needed to know.
jedibuttercup From: jedibuttercup Date: February 3rd, 2015 05:35 am (UTC) (Link)
I think I've seen the reusable cups, for drinking at the tables inside, at more upscale locations like high-end shopping centers at a tourist destination? But I always got a to-go cup even there, so I couldn't say how that works.

Otherwise, I've always experienced as your other commenter said: get in line, give order and name, that's noted on the side of the paper cup, and the cups are passed along to the barista(s). Who fill the cups in order, then call the names.

I googled Starbucks Cup Order and clicked "images", and there's tons of examples there if you want to see the type of notation they use for the orders?
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 4th, 2015 04:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!

This means that in my story the second most powerful entity in the entire universe is going to be given coffee in a paper cup with 'Shar' (mispelt as 'Shah') written on it.
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speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 4th, 2015 04:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! I think the answers here are sufficient.
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speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 4th, 2015 04:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
ffutures From: ffutures Date: February 3rd, 2015 11:26 am (UTC) (Link)
The last time I was in the USA was 2001, at that point it worked exactly the same as the UK - order then wait at the end of the counter for your drink. I think that part of Starbucks global branding is that it works the same everywhere.

Edited at 2015-02-03 11:26 am (UTC)
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 4th, 2015 04:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure that the only time I've ever been in a Starbucks they gave me my coffee in a proper cup not a paper one. But it was a long time ago and my memory might be faulty.
elenorlaura From: elenorlaura Date: February 3rd, 2015 11:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Most Starbucks locations have a an I or or inverted L shape service area. This is where the barista(s) is stationed. There are usually at least two baristas on. The place I stop at on the way to work is near the university, and they normally have 8-10 people working the morning drive shift. But, think of baristas coming in twos and threes. The barista at the register will fulfill orders that don't require the use of the espresso machine or blenders if their partner in the drink prep area is busy. There could be a floater between the register and the drink prep area. The barista at the cash register handles sales and preparation of items from the pastry case unless there is a floater available.

Your order is taken, your cup, paper for hot prep, plastic for cold, is written on with a sharpie or some other marker and handed off to drink prep or a floater, unless it is something easily fulfilled from the register, like black coffee.

The pastry case, at least in the U.S. is full of pre-prepared items that are produced by Starbucks. The have a bakery 'partner', La Boulange. They offer things that have pretty good shelf life, so bagels, coffee cake, muffins, cookies, tarts, and so forth. There is some kind of convection heating unit behind the counter. The pastry items are refrigerated, so you would want them warmed. My busy am coffee stop seems to view this as 'by customer request only', but my lunch Starbucks is a bit more leisurely and clubby, so they take a 'we'll warm this for you' approach to pastry.

So, you place your order, and basically you follow your cup. If you order black coffee and a muffin warmed, you probably will never move beyond the cash register, where your order will be fulfilled. If you order something that requires equipment in drink prep, you move down to pick up your order on the other side of drink prep. Pastry orders tend to find their way down to you.They usually arrive sleeved in paper, but some Starbucks plate pastry items. Bagels are served with plastic knives and individually packaged cream cheese or butter.

There is usually a self-service area proximate to the place where you pick up your order. Seating is pretty fend for yourself, so if you reach a table or a seating area and you still need something, you will probably have to go to the counter for it.

speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 4th, 2015 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! It all seems far more down-market than is portrayed on the Starbucks website, where the drink menu is illustrated with pictures of coffee in beautiful pottery or glass cups.
elenorlaura From: elenorlaura Date: February 4th, 2015 11:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, well there is Starbucks merchandise everywhere in a Starbucks. Cups, glasses, fancy insulated cups, tea making accessories and pots, coffee pots. There are usually seasonal or local themed Starbucks branded, items close to the service line and book case styled shelves and built in units to display the wide, wide range of coffee and tea stuff that you can buy.
shipperx From: shipperx Date: February 3rd, 2015 02:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
If yo go inside you order at the counter and when they have it made they call your name and you pick it up. There's usually both indoor and outdoor seating. And a drive thru.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 4th, 2015 04:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!

As the story is set in December 2007, and the previous chapter referred to an icy wind with occasional flurries of light snow, I don't think anyone would be making use of outdoor seating.
zanthinegirl From: zanthinegirl Date: February 3rd, 2015 05:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Pretty much as everyone said. One point I didn't see mentioned; you can pay with your smart phone now. A coworker of mine gave her daughter an account, and she tops it up once a month or so.

There are regional differences in the menu. I moved from Seattle to South Dakota this fall, and was a little surprised to see that they didn't offer eggnog lattes at the local starbucks this holiday season. (this turned into A Thing and starbucks backed down in the face of uproar) The food is different too; I assume they use local suppliers.

One other difference; starbucks here all have drive throughs. They didn't in my neighborhood in Seattle!
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: February 4th, 2015 04:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! The relevant chapter is set in December 2007 and the payment with smartphone option probably wouldn't have existed then - also the customer in question is a goddess from another planet and doesn't have an Earth smartphone.
julia_here From: julia_here Date: February 4th, 2015 05:12 am (UTC) (Link)
One thing which hasn't been brought up is the omnipresent nature of SB. In the place where I do most of my shopping, there's an inside-the-store Starbucks coffee stand, and then one outside the store in the adjacent strip of small shops (it's between an opticians and my favorite Teriyaki place). Then there's one directly across the street/ parking lot in another store. Oh: and there's also two independant drive-through espresso places in that parking lot, and a donut place that sells high-test coffee drinks. Since I am in the PNW there are also two coffee roasteries in my small suburb, plus a big regional roasterie in downtown Olympia, Batdorf and Bronson's. I think B&B's downtown place of business still sells its inside sales in real cups, and delivers orders to tables, although it's an order-at-the-counter place.

Julia, this whole state is so caffinated we don't notice earthquakes below 5.1 anymore.

curiouswombat From: curiouswombat Date: February 4th, 2015 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Would you believe we don't actually have one here?

If I go to the store locator it tells me there isn't one within 80km - would I like to know where the nearest one within 300km is?

The answer appears to be Bangor Co Down, which is 96.4km away, but my most easily accessed would be to fly to Liverpool, or get the boat to Heysham, and a taxi or local train from there to Lancaster!!

We do have 3 or 4 branches of Costas though.

Edited at 2015-02-04 09:36 pm (UTC)
julia_here From: julia_here Date: February 5th, 2015 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)

As long as it's coffee...

When I was in high school there was one proper espresso shop in the whole state, a beatnik hangout in Seattle called The Last Exit on Broadway. Two years later there was also an espresso cart under the Monorail station at Westlake, and by the time I graduated from Evergreen there were two espresso places in Olympia and dozens in Seattle.

Now there's a meassurable amount of caffiene in Puget Sound, and from my house in most directions there's an espresso place before you get to a gas station. And yet there's not anywhere to get a decent cup of tea.

Julia, I remember Costas, they make a good brew.
magnuskn From: magnuskn Date: March 11th, 2015 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Are you posting new chapters of your fics elsewhere without giving any notice here? I have been forever waiting for another chapter of anything from you and already thought that you had stopped writing. :(
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: March 11th, 2015 04:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm posting one fic, the Lord of the Rings/Neverwinter Nights crossover 'The Dark Companion', only at Twisting the Hellmouth and Fanfiction.net - I can't post it here because it has very long chapters, well over 10,000 words, and it goes way over LJ's posting limit.

I posted the last chapter of 'The Dark Companion' in those places on 27 November. Since then I've written a big chunk of the next chapter of that story but then decided to go back to 'The King of Elfland's Daughter' because it had been so long since I last posted fic on LJ.
magnuskn From: magnuskn Date: March 11th, 2015 06:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good to know. Well, I am looking forward to the next chapters.

You might want to post a link to your other fics when they go up on other sites. :)
24 comments or speak 2 me