Menu Hacking: The drink-ordering habit that’s driving Starbucks baristas crazy

‘We have GOT to get paid more’: Starbucks workers fed up with Gen Z ‘hacking’ the menu with complicated drinks orders they see on TikTok

For many of us, it’s a cherished daily indulgence — stopping into the local coffee shop and ordering a latte, espresso or cappuccino made precisely to our liking. And yet, for an increasingly precious subset of coffee fiends, those standard offerings are only for the uncreative.

For social-media-savvy caffeine lovers, the real action is to be found on a secret menu. So secret, in fact, that it doesn’t actually exist.

Enter menu hacking: A trend happening almost exclusively at chains, Starbucks most notable among them, menu hacking is parlance for when patrons go rogue, ordering something that’s nowhere to be found on the board behind the counter. And at Starbucks, as long as the ingredients are on-hand, the baristas will comply, literally whipping up custom confections on demand.

“We know you love your pumpkin spice latte and cold brew,” extolled Glamour this past fall, “but live a little!” In this case, “living a little” apparently includes downing creations such as a Cadbury Crème Egg Frappuccino, a Hot Butterbeer Latte or a Raspberry Mocha Eggnog.

Photos or it didn’t happen

Promoters of these so-called secret menu items abound on Instagram and TikTok, with hashtags such as #starbuckssecretmenu guiding fans to their latest quirky creation. The Instagram account @starbuckssecretmenupro even advertises an ad-free, subscription-based app that costs users $4.99. That’s $4.99 per week for access to exclusive Starbucks-specific menu-hack recipes, photos and videos. Recent teases have included the Hocus Pocus Latte and the Winifred Sanderson Frappuccino

Unfortunately for baristas, Winifred Sanderson is nowhere on-hand with instructions for how to make such bespoke beverages. And creating them is nowhere as easy as saying “hocus pocus.” In fact, more often than not, baristas have zero clue how to prepare unsanctioned drinks, relying solely on the instructions of the customer. All of which takes time. A resource most baristas — let alone other waiting patrons — rarely have.

Fantastical creations proliferate — and so does the frustration

In the city of Plainfield, Illinois, a Starbucks barista who preferred I withhold her name, expressed her frustration with those who think nothing of ordering off-menu items. And far from being sheepish about asking an employee to fabricate something they found on the internet, these denizens of dare often make their asks without specifying the ingredients. “We tell them we can make it as long as they have the recipe,” she said. Like the recent customer who came in and unabashedly, and without elaboration, asked for a Stranger Things Frappuccino.

Which is not a thing. Until it is.

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It may be trendy, but is it rude to order a complicated drink, especially when there’s a line of customers?

‘We have GOT to get paid more’: Starbucks workers fed up with Gen Z ‘hacking’ the menu with complicated drinks orders they see on TikTok