Is Working at Starbucks Stressful?

barista handing coffee to customer

There's an art to masterfully brewing the perfect dark roast or creating a picture-worthy caramel macchiato. And while chatting with customers and crafting fancy coffee drinks sounds romantic, there's one question at the top of many people's minds before they take a job at the country's biggest coffee chain: Is working at Starbucks stressful?

Working at Starbucks can be stressful at times due to busy stores, understaffing, demanding customers, low pay, and a large menu of infinitely customizable drinks. However, supportive team members, positive customer interactions, and perks and benefits like free coffee and tuition can make taking a job at Starbucks worth the occasional stress.

The rush during peak hours can get your heart racing, with complicated orders, long lines of thirsty customers, and high standards from management to maintain the company's reputation. But there's also camaraderie with your coworkers, community, and the joy of making that cup of coffee that makes someone's day better. Let's dive deeper to figure out what working at Starbucks is actually like. 

Related: Also wondering what uniform is required to work at Starbucks? Check out our guide to the Starbucks uniform here

And if you're looking for a sweet but healthy coffee, learn how to order a Skinny Vanilla Latte in the Starbucks app here.

What Can Make Working at Starbucks Stressful

Surviving the hustle and bustle of the unique environment Starbucks offers means dealing with several elements that can increase your stress levels. While it's true that there are rewards that come with working there, it's essential to acknowledge that there is pressure too. From intricate drinks to busy lines to multitasking to challenging customers. A few aspects that can contribute to stress levels include: 

Bad Management

Management quality can greatly impact your stress levels at any job. A bad manager can make a fun job miserable, and a good manager can make a bad job fun. If a job already has stressful elements, bad management is only going to make it worse. Employees who have to work under managers who can't communicate well, fail to create a positive work environment, or don't provide enough support can find working at Starbucks much more stressful. 

Busy and Often Understaffed

One of the biggest stress points for Starbucks baristas is the volume of customers that come through the door, especially during peak hours. And especially at stores with drive thoughs. The brand's immense popularity can mean you deal with long lines and a constant order stream, which can tire employees out. Additionally, stores can be understaffed, putting even more pressure on the remaining baristas to keep up with the increased demand and impatient customers.

Complex and Complicated Drink Menu

Starbucks is famous for offering a constantly changing and extensive menu with infinitely customizable drinks. This is part of the charm for the customers, but it can be a significant stress point for the baristas. Learning to create a massive range of drinks, each with different ingredients, preparation, and presentation, can be daunting, especially for new baristas.  

Difficult Customers

“I want my latte extra hot, but not too hot, with exactly 2.5 pumps of vanilla syrup, half almond milk, half oat milk, half goat milk and a sprinkle of stardust on top.” As a Starbucks employee or any employee in any food service industry job, you may have to deal with a demanding customer or two. Some people won't be happy with their drinks and can be impatient and rude. Managing these interactions while staying professional can be stressful.  

Low Pay

Starbucks' wage may not always seem to be enough to justify the work level or intensity. This job requires you to master a broad skill set and handle very rushed, stressful situations that can feel disproportionate to what they pay. In turn, this can lead to feelings of frustration. 

Memorizing Drink Recipes and Multitasking

When you work at Starbucks, you have to remember a huge list of recipes and juggle several tasks at once. Brewing coffee, taking orders, preparing food, maintaining cleanliness, and handling transactions have to get done simultaneously, making the job more complex. 

I remember when I worked at a small local golf club. We had a tiny kitchen, and we'd get huge dinner rushes every Friday night for fish fry. When you first started, it was easy to get overwhelmed with everything you had to learn, like making the batters, side dishes, and sauces and keeping the line running so food didn't get cold. It was stressful, but having a good team working with you made it go fast, and I learned a lot. 

Related: Learn why Starbucks coffee tastes burnt in our article here

Some Things to Remember    

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While it can seem very intimidating to work at Starbucks, it's essential to go into this job with an open mind. Every new task you try has a learning curve and challenges, but you can overcome them. Here are a few things to help settle your mind and give you a balanced outlook as a Starbucks barista:

  • Training First and Easing into Tasks You won't be making drinks on your first day at Starbucks. The company prioritizes thorough training for all new hires. Initially, you will slowly start taking on tasks like taking orders at the drive-through or register. Making drinks during slower times will come later once you are comfortable and well-versed with the basics.
  • Every Job Has Challenges – Regardless of the industry or role, every job has challenges and stressors. It's a universal aspect of work-life that helps us grow, adapt, and build resilience.
  • Similar Difficulties in Most Customer-Facing Jobs – Remember that the difficulties you might face at Starbucks are not unique to this company. Most food service and customer-facing jobs have similar challenges, including busy periods, complex tasks, and the occasional demanding customer.

With these points in mind, it's easier to approach a role at Starbucks with an open mind and the readiness to take on the challenges and rewards it offers.

Related: See why Starbucks writes your name on the cup in our article here

The Pros and Cons of Working at Starbucks

Working at Starbucks, as with any job, presents a combination of pros and cons. These vary based on individual circumstances and personal values, but here are some key points to consider:

Pros of Working at Starbucks:

  • 100% Tuition to Arizona State University (ASU) – Starbucks has a program called the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, partnering with ASU to offer eligible employees 100% tuition coverage for a bachelor's degree.
  • Benefits and Perks – Starbucks offers a comprehensive benefits package that includes health coverage, a 401(k) plan, paid time off, parental leave, and partner assistance programs. Employees also enjoy perks such as free coffee and discounts. For detailed information, you can visit Starbucks Benefits and Perks.
  • Coffee Skills – For coffee enthusiasts, Starbucks is a fantastic place to learn more about the art of coffee making, from espresso pulling to latte art.
  • Customer Service Skills – Starbucks significantly emphasizes high-quality customer service, providing an excellent platform for employees to learn and hone these skills.
  • Interaction and Networking – The job offers ample opportunities to interact with diverse customers and colleagues. This can be an enriching experience, allowing for networking and forming meaningful connections.
  • Tips – Baristas at Starbucks can keep the tips they earn, which can supplement their income.

Cons of Working at Starbucks:

  • Busy Work Environment – Starbucks can be extremely busy, especially during peak hours, leading to stressful and hectic work conditions.
  • Complicated Drink Menu – Starbucks' extensive and complex drink menu requires baristas to memorize many recipes, which can be overwhelming for some.
  • Difficult Customers – As with any customer-facing job, dealing with demanding or rude customers can be challenging and stressful.
  • Low Pay – Despite the benefits and perks, some employees feel the pay is relatively low for the required work and skills.
  • Unpredictable Hours/Scheduling – Starbucks stores often operate for extended hours, leading to early morning or late-night shifts. Scheduling can be unpredictable and may not always align with personal routines or commitments.

Related: Curious what it's like to work at other coffee shops? Check out our guides to working at Dunkin and working at Dutch Bros

Is Working at Starbucks Worth It?

Photo by Asael Peña on Unsplash

Working at Starbucks depends on one's goals and outlook. Starbucks offers a unique work environment that, while stressful, offers many benefits and opportunities. Employees enjoy the engaging, community-focused environment and the chance to learn and practice customer service, teamwork, and multitasking. Starbucks offers competitive health benefits, tuition assistance, and employee discounts.

However, peak hours are physically and mentally taxing. High customer service standards and low pay in some regions can be stressful.

Is Starbucks' work worthwhile? It could be if you value a dynamic work environment, growth and learning, tangible employee benefits, and the company's mission and values. However, you must weigh these benefits against the job's challenges and personal and career goals. The following Reddit quotes sum of working at Starbucks well: 

“Whenever people have asked me this at work I have said the following: ‘This job is easy. People are hard.”

“It's a food service job. It can take a few months to develop the muscle memory to get into that flow state and make drinks with speed and accuracy. Once you have the basics of making drinks down, it's as difficult as any job that involves making food and keeping customers happy. The best and worst part of the job is the customers.”

At the end of the day, it's not brain surgery or military combat. Sure a busy day can be exhausting, but remember: It's just coffee 😉

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