Starbucks UK – How to save money (from a current employee)

Starbucks UK – How to save money (from a current employee)

Like in every job – there are people who are just there for the job, and people that genuinely enjoy it. The ones that genuinely enjoy it far outweigh the ones that don’t at Starbucks. The key issue is that most Starbucks stores in the UK are now franchised – because of this there is VERY heavy focus on sales and turnover as it is effectively a small business.

In turn, little things such as giving away freebies have a much larger effect and staff are scrutinised a lot more (I say this based on the area I work in as well as knowledge from two other areas that friends work in). This is why I took exception to the milk issue [we were talking about how you can get free milk in-store].

The easiest way (by far) to save money in Starbucks is to become a regular and befriend a Barista… I know the names and orders of at least half of the customers who come into my store in any given week and because of that I know how I can make their order cheaper. (We are actually encouraged to make the life of the customer easier after all).

The two key examples that I encourage people to take advantage of:

  • Re-usable cups (as you mentioned in your original article) will save you 25p from every drink… Starbucks sell a re-usable cup that I advise people to buy. It’s £1 and a little more than a tall but not quite big enough for a grande – there for you’ll get a tall… that makes a latte £2 instead of £2.60 (what you’re actually getting).
  • Starbucks cards… honestly, staff were the first ones to feed back up through management about the star system. It’s a “technical issue” that has kept it that way – however phoning through to the Starbucks Card line is the best way to do it (they will give you the stars or some other compensation) and it is much more likely to get the star system resolved. Baristas have no control over Starbucks cards… it’s the same as a Nectar Card is to Sainsburys, it’s effectively controlled by a different company. That said, it can be advantageous.

The hidden discounts & tricks with a Starbucks Card:

Say you have a Starbucks card and register an account on the website and enjoy a caramel latte with whipped cream every now and then… that’s £3.60 for a grande. Say you have a couple of friends who you trust… if you group up and share the account (all register your cards to the one account – you can use your physical card or the app, but will have access to all cards through the app which is why I said TRUST) then in no time you will have hit 50 stars on the ACCOUNT – your drink goes down to £2.60 because your extras are free. The free drinks are accumulated on the individual cards (15 stars) but the gold level (50 stars) is at account level.10174976_661950860509142_3505870775558145311_n

If you are at gold level and are nice to the people who are serving you – they’ll be happy to find ways to take advantage of that, examples of things I do for people;

If someone wants a mocha cookie crumble (it’s not official on the menu this year but the ingredients ARE in stores) – you’ll pay for a coffee frappucino saving about a third because everything else can be put as an extra – and you get those for free because you have a gold membership.

  • There are a couple of people that want strong coffees (an americano with extra shots) but only half filled with hot water, but the key point is they don’t go crazy with the milk. For that they’d pay for a single espresso and the rest would be added on as extras so they’re covered with a gold card.
  • There’s a regular who comes in pretty much every morning who used to love toffee nut latte, the closest taste is a mixture of caramel and hazelnut syrups – then she has whipped cream and caramel sauce on top. The regular price would be £4.10 but with the tips I mentioned… she only pays £2 (starbucks card linked to a gold account and one of the £1 re-usable cups).

Basically, if someone is nice, a Barista will find a way to make your drink cheap as long as they know you have a gold level on your starbucks card. On average I knock about 30-50% off people’s drinks purely because of 3 reasons…

  • People like saving money, it makes them happy.
  • As far as the tills are concerned – drinks are still going through amounting to £3-4 per drink so the owners still get their money. (Even when things go free from Starbucks card – the owner is still getting their money). And the key issue – stock is accounted for, and therefore we don’t run out.
  • Firstly I’m happy because the people around me are happy, and secondly because management leave me alone – after all, I’m hitting targets.

Using methods like that mean an easier life for Baristas. Coffee culture is an expensive culture, everyone knows that. If people are nice enough then people will make the effort. The key is to actually tell the barista exactly what you want as well, as half the time they’ll charge you for something cheaper than what you thought.


An example:

So keeping that in mind;

A large iced caramel origin latte.

(Please say what it is before you ask us to ring it through as something else)

Ordering a large cup of iced milk with three shots of origin espresso (Guatemale, Kenya, Ethiopia etc) and some caramel syrup.

£1.40 with a Starbucks gold card… £1.15 if you bring a big cup. You get something for cheap (compared to paying £3.65 full price) and everyone is happy.

I do that one for quite a lot of regulars… all stock is accounted for because everything has been rung through the till – so we don’t get investigated for missing stock (honestly – in stores I’ve worked in people have done the latte trick you mentioned as well as just coming in for a cup and helping themselves to milk – in turn we’ve started running out and had to go and buy more which in turn we’ve then been investigated why we aren’t ringing things through the till properly – are people stealing? etc – and we don’t run out of things.

Lastly with the stars issue:

If it’s fairly quiet – a Barista is usually the first one to mention putting things through separately. If it’s during a rush hour – it’s the customers behind you that get annoyed, not us, and they take it out on us. Please just keep that in mind.

For food

The only things that really make a difference are if you’re having food to takeaway. Baristas generally don’t mind if you’re sat over in the corner with your croissant and latte to go as long as you remember two things;

  • It’s supposed to be to go, so don’t leave a mess.
  • At least put the takeaway stuff in the bin after you finish.

With filter coffees

The written guidance that everyone is given are – if you get a tall, grande, or venti filter… you can have a tall filter in a to go cup. It doesn’t actually cover short – personally I’d give you a tall refill, but keep in mind busier stores might not and they aren’t doing anything wrong.

If it isn’t a busy store and you’re nice enough to your barista they’ll usually give you a like for like refill without you asking. (Grande for Grande etc).

Filter machines are usually turned off about an hour before close – As a general rule of thumb we’ll offer an Americano for the same price, but that’s a seperate product we’ve offered at a lower price. Offering an Americano AT THE SAME PRICE or refills aren’t actually official – it’s just something Baristas do to make everyones lives easier.

Short cups

Short cups are a tiny bit cheaper, but you’re actually getting half the amount you would in a tall. Baristas don’t mind you ordering that, but half the time they’re suggesting a tall over that because it’s actually a LOT better value.

Puppycino / Babycino

Puppycino isn’t in the UK so we would have to charge for it [+ dogs shouldn’t be eating dairy]. Babycino on the other hand is… it’s a complimentary drink we can OFFER. It’s supposed to be a takeaway espresso cup of warm frothy milk for kids… though to be fair we usually end up putting extra stuff on top like whipped cream or sauce. Baristas are fine with this if you’re ordering a drink… however if you ask for a larger cup, you can usually expect to pay for it – same if you just order a small tea and keep sending your kids up for more cups of warm milk covered in whipped cream and caramel sauce for the next hour.

More ways to save

The cheapest way to do any of it is to keep an eye on Groupon, (and of course) Zeek – get cheap vouchers and add them to a card on a gold account and just use the advice I wrote above.

Guest Espressos & Extras

One last thing – if you DO have a gold account and are using a Starbucks card, please keep in mind that we HAVE to ask if you want the guest espressos and extras… and even if you don’t – ocassionally allowing us to put it through the tills means you don’t pay for it, but we’ve done our job of up selling 🙂

The reason I wanted to write this is because everyone loves a freebie or a bargain (especially me – just about to graduate, a member and contributor of various money saving sites for years) but most people that are reading the posts get a little over excited.

Thanks to our Anonymous insider, got a tip? Let us know below or message us on Facebook

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