Starbucks: 87,000 Drink Combinations

Post ImageAnd you thought deciding between a Grande and a Venti was hard! In the December 18th issue of Time there is a really great article about Starbucks and the challenges it faces as it grows. Currently there are around 12,440 locations worldwide and the goal is to expand to 40,000 – more than even McDonald’s. Also included in accompanying graphics are some interesting stats, such as the number of drink combinations:

Historically, Starbucks has done a great job at balancing new ideas with efficiency, says Frances Frei, a professor at Harvard business school who has studied the company. A classic example: the way it trains us to order in Starbucks jargon, grande this and half-caff that. Serving tens of thousands of possible drink combinations would be an operational nightmare were it not for a regimented logic to ordering, a marketing flourish that helps establish the atmosphere of an Italian cafe.

I always chuckle when people walk into Starbucks and order a non-fat, extra-hot, double-shot, no-whip, blah blah blah kind of drink. Why do they even bother drinking the coffee? I had never really thought about these combinations from the perspective of Starbucks, however. When you consider the 87,000 possible combinations, it’s amazing that half of Starbucks locations average 3 minutes per customer (less than 60% do according to the article).

I’ll probably still chuckle when someone orders what sounds to me like an incredibly complex drink, but at least now I’ll know this: it could have been worse!

Read: Time

4 thoughts on “Starbucks: 87,000 Drink Combinations

  1. I wasn’t so much thinking about the different combos of drinks Starbucks has but that they serve a person in 3 minutes, on average. Come to think about this, it is pretty true.

    Coming from a city like Hong Kong where time is everything, 3 minutes is still too long BUT this is COFFEE..meant to be enjoyed AND based on North American standards (where it is very usual for me to stand for 8-10 minutes before being served at Safeway or even McDonald’s for that matter), I applaud all Starbucks employees 🙂 They are always so friendly too…in other news…hey, I still like my Second Cup!

  2. There are a lot of really amazing things about Starbucks. They are truly a fascinating case study.

    I think 3 minutes is too long if you’re just going for the drip coffee in the morning. I would like to know how the number breaks down (by type of drink, time of day, etc).

  3. So maybe there’s not that much similarity between my Simpson Avatar and my picture [although my mom thinks so as she giggles away] but this Simpsons Movie interactive avatar creator is a great business and marketing idea. For one…

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