A place to pour out coffee: Drains at condiments stations at Starbucks

This very short blog post is inspired by the mystarbucksidea.com thread, “A place to pour out coffee” at Starbucks.  It’s a common theme on mystarbucksidea.com that people want some sort of drain at the condiment area to pour out a little extra coffee to make room for cream or milk.  Here are a few examples of the kinds of threads on this topic:

There are a few Starbucks in Seattle that already have a drain in them.  The photo in this blog post shows one.  They look a little unsightly to me.  None of my regular stores have this drain so I have not heard feedback from baristas whether they like this drain at the condiment station.  As a black coffee drinker, I have a hard time getting behind the movement towards drains, but since so many people want them, I am writing this blog entry.  What do you think of having a drain at the condiment area? And if there are any baristas reading this who work at one of the few stores in Seattle with a drain, please chime in!

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  • Lee

    Melody, I sort of agreed with one poster who said that installing plumbing at all the thousands of SBUX locations would be prohibitive and would never happen I don’t have a good answer. You’d think there would be a better way to tell the barista to leave room, either verbally or, as some have suggested, with markings on the cup.

    (Heck, the cost of this would be a lot more than the ‘Gold Card program’ that we are ballistic about! :-) )

    I’m betting this one won’t have a good answer.


  • Michael

    As just a regular customer who sometimes has to spill out his coffee into the trash, I wonder if this bothers the partner who has to empty it? If not, I don’t think the drain is needed. But if having that liquid in the trash is a pain in the rear for my favorite Starbucks partners, then I’m all for it!

  • PinkyPie

    it’s probably a strange question, but why would one want to dump something down a drain?

  • CD

    Almost every time I am at the condiment bar I see someone pouring out coffee into the trash can to make room for creme (can you say “grande bold with room?”) It always makes me think about the poor barista who has to schlep the bag out to the back.

    Dripping liquid filled trash bags are a given at quick service places like Starbucks (and McDonalds – sorry, not trying to stir anything up). It would be nice to see some type of solution.

  • CD

    I have to admit though, I really hate having to sort and separate items out at the trash bins at Panera. I like that they offer real silverware, but the trash areas gross me out. As bad as the condiment bars get at some Starbucks (see Juan Valdez’s columns) I’m not sure I’d like to see what ends up in some of these sinks…

  • denise r.

    no, to the ‘draining areas’ in Sbux. it would have to be unsightely’, imo. I do wonder about all that liquid in the trash when it gets emptied….but I think I would rather be a little more exact with the barista about how much ‘room’ I wanted…….if I ever wanted ‘room’.

  • Hallie

    honestly, enough of our customers ask for room, and the baristas at my store and many stores in my area ask BC customers for room. I occasionally see people pouring their coffee in the trash, but we double line our trash cans for that very reason…people throw away all sorts of liquidy messes. I’d rather clean up a brewed coffee mess as opposed to a frappucino mess any day!

    Drains at the condiment bar would be a huge waste of money in my opinion. Maybe some stores need them, but I can’t imagine the cost would be worth it. People would probably still throw coffee in the trash. Some people can’t even put their emptied sugar packets in the receptical that is built into the condiment bar.

  • Stephen Jacob

    I would not generally have reason to use a drain myself, but I bet it’s not too much fun changing possibly leaky trash bags from under the milk/etc. station where people have been pouring out coffee into the trash because there’s no drain for them to use.

  • camspi

    Changing leaky trashes is gross.

    …But I just figure thats part of the job. No true need for a drain. Starbucks still operates fine without them and there’s no financial reason to install them. It seems like a novel idea, though.

  • CABarista

    I agree that people would start throwing all kinds of things in there.
    Considering when our one trash can gets full (and there is another less than two feet away) people start piling their trash on the ledge (before we have a chance to get there) I cannot imagine what would happen in a drain!

    I really really wish customers would tell me they need more room…I’d gladly give it!

    As for those who take out the garbage, we double bag everything , and it’s normally not a problem. All our garbages end up with lots of liquid in them as many throw out partially drunk lattes and coffees :)

  • CD

    I’ve seen people throw garbage in the wicker coffee bins and the grounds for your garden bin so I can only imagine what would end up in these sinks…perhaps there is a way to deal with the liquid trash issue and promote “for here” ware at the same time…

  • AmazonV

    I agree with many of the commenters that this is a symptom of not having etched or marked inner cups for customers to request how much room that they want.

    The work and cost to put in a drain is prohibitive, esp. when you consider how many half-drunk drinks will make it to the trash anyway, making it a necessity to double bag the trash anyway.

  • LatteRose

    I think drains give a feeling of being a bit unsanitary, no matter how clean they are. My feeling, anyway.

  • Nathan

    I say “no” to drains for three main reasons: 1) I’m a black coffee drinker. 2) They look rather ugly and woult detract from the cleanliness of the store. 3) People need to learn how to order the right amount of room for themselves instead of just dumping out coffee. If someone needs extra room, they should order a tall in a grande, or grande in a venti, etc.

  • seventysix [76]

    Hi Melody,

    While I see the appeal of a drain at the condiment bar, I agree with others who say the cost outweighs the benefit here.

    I’ve always felt that we train our customers and our customers train us. Every time someone orders a drip coffee, I ask if they need room. Common courtesy and matter resolved.



    I think that if we had a drain it would just be one more thing for Ecosure to get us on when they do their audit.

  • Mike Crimmins

    I’m a black coffee drinker too, but when I used to drink coffee with sugar and cream, I’d always ask them to leave room for the cream. I didn’t think it was that difficult.

  • Venti_Bold

    Saw someone pouring some coffee in the trash this morning.

    I used to just order “with room” now I order “1/4 (1/2) inch room”. I have never had to pour any in the trash though. Also, the baristas seem to appreciate me using measurements.

  • LatteLaura

    Like Venti-Bold I also specify the exact amount of room I want in my cup. Those drains look gross to me!

  • Wes

    Agree with many of the comments here about coffee going into trash cans. When I was a partner I used to hate ppl who poured coffee into the trash. I would give them dirty looks over the bar b/c even when I double bagged there were still frequent leaks. Drains would be hard to install and having a bucket for used coffee is just gross. But perhaps installing self serve water fountains could solve two problems by allowing customers to get their own H2o rather than bothering baristas and the fountain can serve for a drain for unwanted coffee!

  • @coffeepedaler

    I say “no” to drains for many of the afforementioned reasons. I would encourage baristas to ask how much room coffee drinkers want, to further customize the order. Customers can also start asking for 1 or 2 inches if they need it too. Easier than plumbing.

  • Scooter McGoo

    Melody I have to say some of Ur posters are funny. As pertaining to the question of the drains at the condi bar, a lot of them are not permanent therefore would not be logical to add fixtures if the floor plan changes.
    It made me giggle when one comment said:
    Some people can’t even put their emptied sugar packets in the receptical that is built into the condiment bar. This to is do to lazyness and rudeness, no different than when A customer walks to the counter and U ask them how are they today and U get for an answer, “Venti Mocha! like Ur too rude/stupid to even respond when someone is asking U a question but it’s just better to be asshats. Having worked for the BUCK for the past three years(OMG i make too much $$$ I guess I’ll be fired soon, LOL) I have noticed the small changes in the CORE customer base, the majority of our traffic has become a bigger mix of “I’ve never been to SBUX B4 what do think I would like here?” They seem more geared to the “Fluff” of the place rather than about the coffee. It seems that all the “Extra’s” the company sells has really killed the old mission statement of being a provider of premium beans. It’s sad but I can C in the next five years all whole bean being removed from the stores except prolly Seattle locations. It’s not about the coffee anymore, it’s about EVERYTHING but the coffee.
    Ps. The issue with room is that most ppl don’t really have a clue on what an inch is in reality, #justsaying I love that U write about topics others don’t stop and even think about, Keep the faith!

  • Kieley

    Rather than having drains at the condiment bar, this whole problem could be solved with simple communication: The barista should ask every time how much room a person wants before they even get the coffee. Double bag the trashes for backup…


  • Ben

    Here in Seattle, SBC already provides small drains. I didn’t realize until later that these drains were not connected to anything but instead were a steel tub with a grate on top and are actually just for the purpose outlined above I suppose.

    Every so often I’d have a large amount of drink left over and poor it into one of these.

    Funny that people want something that is already available in a “Starbucks” product.

  • Bill

    I almost always pour out some coffee into the trash hole at the condiment bar, even when I ask for room. You can encourage customers to be “responsible”, and ask for a specific amount of room for cream, but I strongly doubt most customers will have the presence of mind to do this. It’s just unrealistic. Baristas all have different ideas of how much room to give for cream and this WILL NOT CHANGE.

    Drains at the condiment bar are a great, and necessary, idea. They would NOT be expensive to install; just find a supplier for a small, 4″ diameter bowl-shaped drain with a simple hole at the bottom and no grid on top (there’s nothing to filter out!!) .It should have a rim with a similar appearance to the rim on the trash hole. Cut a 4″ hole with a hole saw drill attachment, drop in the drain, connect the drain hole to a tube or straight PVC pipe, and attach the piple to a thin, rectangular tank that slips in alongside the trash can. The tank could be a plastic tank that consists of a lid, which is attached to the pipe, and the larger bottom part, which contains the coffee. An employee detaches this tank twice a day and empties it into the kitchen sink. Installation would be less than $100 and virtually anyone could do it.

  • Bjorn

    Hey guys… Few years back I had an idea for the sticks to stop spilling. Well, I was a little late… Was thinking about the liquid dispenser area because I like thinking and because I used to work at SB and had to do the trash run. I remember the coffee spewing out as I dragged overfilled backs. Anyway, after much thinking, I believe the standardization of poring the coffee in predefined mechanical portions will solve the problem at the highest level. After all, for the most part, the newer dispensers should first be fit to the drip machines..

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