3 steps to be the best customer you can be.

So here’s the scene: you walk into a coffee shop. WHAT DO YOU DO:

STEP 1: Find the menu.

If you don’t see it immediately, don’t panic. Though every shop will be different, the odds are it will be one of a few predictable places. Check first right above the registers on the back wall. This is the most common location for beverage menus. Don’t worry about feeling like you’re staring at the barista. This location makes it really easy to do what I call “gaping.” This is when a customer assumes a particular position where their head is angled back so that the barista can see every square inch of your nasal passages. Avoid this. Say the menu isn’t on the wall at all. DO NOT PANIC. Look around to the other customers. Are they holding paper menus? If the answer is yes, find a menu. An easy tip for finding a menu is to ask the person holding the menu where they found it. Once you’ve ascertained the location of the menu, proceed to STEP 2.*

*Note: if a menu does not list a “caramel macchiato” do not order it. They don’t have it because it is not a thing. Order a vanilla latte or a caramel latte, and I promise you will walk away with a smile. Using Starbucks terms at non-bucks locations challenges baristas not to accidentally roll their eyes.

STEP 2: Make a decision.

This is arguably the hardest part of the process. Some of us are better at making decisions than others, but I promise you can do this. If you don’t have a definite craving, you have two options: ask your barista or do eeny meeny miney mo. If you’re standing in a line, I don’t recommend asking the barista. I love making decisions for people, but when it’s busy and there are a thousand things going on, I’m more likely to just give you what I like to move you through the line rather than figuring out exactly what you desire.* If you choose to go it alone, remember to start simple. Ask yourself questions like, “Coffee or tea? Hot drink or cold? Do I want milk or will a nice cup of black coffee be all it takes to fulfill my needs?”

Once you’ve chosen your beverage, you must next choose your size. Here’s where my personal opinion always takes over. Contrary to popular belief more is not better.** If you’re getting a latte (especially if you’re getting a cappuccino), the larger size you purchase, the less you will taste the coffee. This is due to the fact that you’re mostly just drinking hot dairy. I recommend 6-8 ounces for a cappuccino, 8-12 ounces for a latte. If you’ve chosen the drink with the longest list of flavorings in it (examples include anything with white chocolate or 2 or more syrups), I would stick with 12 ounces. If you really just love hot dairy (or dairy alternative), by all means do what makes you happy. A barista’s job is to make you the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had. If that means they have to make you a 6 pump white chocolate mocha with half a shot of espresso, I will do it. But it makes me so much more excited when someone who ordered an 8 oz capp tells me they loved their drink than the guy behind him instagraming his 16 oz iced caramel vanilla hazelnut latte. Now that you’ve chosen your size, you may proceed to STEP 3.***

* “Decision making” flow chart for your coffee decision aid)
** also contrary to popular belief, “tall” “grande” and “venti” are not accepted units of measurement.
*** IMPORTANT- You must complete ALL of step 2 BEFORE you proceed to Step 3. Especially if there is a line present.

STEP 3: At the counter.

Here’s where things get tricky. Not every shop is the same. Likewise, not every barista is the same. Approaching the counter, think first about what you want from this experience. Are you here to make friends or do you just want your coffee and that seat in the corner?

Typically the dialogue goes like this:

Barista: Hey, man! How are you?
Customer: I’m great! How are you?
Barista: Awesome! I’m good. What can I get for you?
Customer: I think I’ll get a 12 oz mocha for here.
Barista: Right on!

However, it sometimes goes like this:

Barista: Hey, man! How are you?
Customer: Oh my god, I’m so glad you asked! Life is so good. I just got to sleep in and snuggle with my kittens and I ate 3 plates of bacon before I came here do you think that’s going to kill me I hear you should really limit that stuff but I’ve been running more lately haha no I haven’t do you have anything gluten free? No I can’t eat anything. What DO I want, really? In life I mean. Oh, I’m sorry! How are you?
Barista: Cool, man. I’m good. What can I get for you?

But they can also go like this:

Barista: Hey, man! How are you?
Customer: …
Barista: What can I get for you?
Customer: Coffee.
Barista: …

A good barista can manage both extremes, so if you’ve been one of these people, don’t worry. It’s our job and we love it. However, achieving a happy medium is best. If your barista asks about your life or your dogs/cats, feel free to tell them everything you want. Just remember to be conscious of the line. The barista may care about your kittens, but the 10 people behind you are probably imagining your face when your kittens pee on your pillow.

You must now give your barista your clear and concise coffee order that you designed in STEP 2. You will hand over your money and the transaction will be complete. Make sure you know where to pick up your drink before walking away from the counter. Don’t forget to leave a tip. And have a nice day!


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