This is such a little thing, but I have noticed that many customers don’t know where to stand at Starbucks.  They’re not sure where to form a line to pay for their delicious hand-crafted beverages!  Here’s a little secret – the overwhelming majority of Starbucks are designed so that customers line up along the pastry case.  There are a few exceptions out there, but store design tries to navigate customers along the pastry /Ready-To-Drink (“RTD” – it holds the bottled beverages on its lower level)  case, tempting customers to buy food, juice, and more.

Now  you know.  Line up along the pastry case, pretty please.

Store design – Long, fixed, tall table:

Some stores are well designed with a nice tall, long, skinny table to help “guide” the line of customers.  At the 1201 Third Avenue Starbucks in downtown Seattle, here is a perfect example of what I mean:

2 - 1 - 676999365 Starbucks at 1201 Third Avenue Seattle 24 October 2012DSC07058 - 3rd and Seneca Starbucks 1201 Third Avenue 30 may 2013DSC07057 - 3rd and Seneca Starbucks - 30 May 2013

A store missing any store design to help guide customers:

The Fourth and Union Starbucks also is a gorgeous, newer, downtown Seattle, but it doesn’t have any strong design features to help guide customers where to stand:

DSC07063 4th and Union Starbucks downtown Seattle 30 may 2013

At this store, I see people doing this all the time:

DSC07063 4th and Union Starbucks Wrong way 30 may 2013

^ That’s what not to do.  There is a strong compulsion to line up like that.

Here is how the line is actually supposed to flow:

DSC07063 4th and Union Starbucks downtown Seattle 30 may 2013 Right way

I will be honest.  I didn’t realize that store design tries to line people up along the pastry case until a partner told me this.  In 2009, the then-store manager of First and Pike (Leah) told me how the line was supposed to flow.  I didn’t know until she told me!

I think that it would make sense for Fourth and Union to have a tall, long, guiding table too.

What not to do:

Please do not attempt to order from the espresso bar.  I think I know why some people try and do this.  (I have never seen this happen in downtown Seattle, but baristas have told me that it happens once in a blue moon).  I would imagine that customers who attempt to order from the bar are very unfamiliar with Starbucks.  I think perhaps they’re more familiar with something like a Subway or Taco Del Mar where you build your food item, and then at the end, you get to the register and pay for your taco or sandwich, including all the wonderful add ons, like guacamole, cheese, and such.


Thanks for joining me in this lesson on where to form a line to order and pay for your beverage.  If we line up correctly, it will make a little easier for partners to ‘call the line,’ if they decide to do that.  Also, for many stores, if the line doesn’t form correctly, it will bunch up into the condiment bar area, causing confusion.  There are exceptions!  The Olive Way Starbucks in Seattle is not designed with the line along the pastry case!  And, in any case, it will make it much easier to see all the new yummy La Boulange pastry items (or the pastry items that your store has) when they’re available.

This has been your customer need-to-know article! 😉