Why Starbucks Has Their Own Crazy Lingo

Harvard Business Review looks at how Starbucks trains their customers to use their special lingo, improving efficiency


If you've wondered why Starbucks ever bothered to create their own fancy lingo and then drum it into everyone else's head, the reason is simple: They were training you.

Harvard Business Review spoke to Anne Morriss, managing director of the Concire Leadership Institute, about how the unique vocabulary created shorter lines, but asked more from customers.

"Customers were coming up and using their own vocabulary and taking their own time to order a drink, so it was you know small and large and I'd like a couple shots and could you make that skim milk," she said. "Very quickly this process was eroding the service experience because the lines that were already long were getting longer and it was taking a ton of time."

So the solution? Make up coffee-speak of double talls, nonfats, skim, dirty chais,mistos, etc. And if a customer gets it wrong? Shout it back to them and publicly shame them.

"We don't like to be corrected in public," Morriss explains, so customers are more motivated to learn the lingo — or at least their drink.

And apparently, this works. "It turns out that that had an enormous impact in the efficiency of the line and the quality of service experience," Morriss said. We're wondering how their supposed secret menu and the ensuing employee confusion is helping that out.

Watch the full discussion below.