Posted on by Barista Life

The following content was originally posted on, written by Lenny, who worked at Starbucks from 2006-2013 (partner #1301323). He has dedicated his time to help new partners and baristas get the most out of their time at Starbucks.

Tips for Struggling New Baristas

Asked by Mimi:

Hi. My name is Mimi and I am a newly hired barista. Although I did go through a week of training, I feel completely unprepared. I panic every time I’m on register, and even feel self-conscious when I’m cleaning the lobby. I knew this job was going to be difficult for me, considering I have an anxiety disorder, but I was wondering if you had any tips on how to make it through these first few weeks. Specifically, tips regarding using the register and writing out the drinks quicker.

My answer:

Hi Mimi,

Totally understand where you’re coming from. When I started I was completely overwhelmed as well - I sucked at both dealing with customers and making drinks. I was so disappointed at my performance I was afraid they were going fire me at one point!

But after a few weeks I started to fall into a groove with register/bar, then came to the realization that most customers just want to get their drink, maybe have some small talk, and get on with their day.

So at a high level, there’s 2 things you can do to improve your performance:

1. Get good at small talk.

Because you have anxiety disorder I imagine this is more important - if you’re panicking when interacting with customers it’s hard to get better technical aspects of the job (register/bar).

The first couple of weeks are the hardest, because you don’t know your customers yet. Once you know the regulars (and they know you), you’ll naturally feel much more at ease. You’ll also realize 90% of the conversations you’ll have are about the same things, so you’ll pretty much have a list of generic responses and things to talk about.

It’ll probably be things like:

  • “How’s your day going?”
  • “Do anything fun today?”
  • “Any big plans for the weekend?”
  • *Talk about sports*
  • *Talk about Netflix*
  • *Talk about school*
  • *Complain about traffic*
  • *Complain about work*
  • *Complain about Mondays*
  • *Complain about prices*
  • *Complain about Christmas music* (notice a trend here? people complain a lot… just go with it.) 

Customers will also ask question about Starbucks stuff. Don’t worry, once again, 90% of the questions are the same.

It’ll be questions like:

  • When does X seasonal drink come out?
  • How does X drink taste?
  • Do you grind beans?
  • What’s a Macchiato? 
  • Is there a key for the restroom? (you’ll get this AT LEAST once a day)
  • Is this gluten free? (this might be a Bay Area thing…)

2. Get good at register/bar.

If your training was anything like mine, you probably don’t do anything very fast. That’s OK. You will get there. 

If you want to study, you can find all the official Starbucks resources here. You should also have a copy in your store - you should flip through it while on your break.

I also wrote a high-level post about with some advice for new partners doing bar.

But there’s only so much I can do from here. I would highly suggest that you buddy-up with some of the senior baristas and learn from them. I learned so much from the staff when I was new – not just about Starbucks, but important skills in life (like how to invest money properly). You probably have a few pretty intelligent baristas in your store – ask a lot of questions and copy what they’re doing at work.

The first few weeks of Starbucks is very overwhelming… new environment, new customers, new partners, and a ton of skills to learn - I can’t imagine how difficult it must be with anxiety disorder.

But you’ll eventually get into a routine after a few weeks and everything will fall in place. You’ll get to know your partners, recognize customers, and write/make drinks without thinking - it just takes time. Stick with it!

Also understand that your customers probably like you more than you think.

Ok, hope that helped - good luck!

(just realized I didn’t really give you tips about how to do register better… maybe someone reading this will…)


Register advice from anon:

As for getting better with the register/POS system, i would suggest playing around with it when you’re not in a rush. Simply play around with it until you get familiar with where all the drinks are. We usually train our newbies in the afternoons where it’s quiet and we do that and we also begin “quizing” them. We pretend to be customers and tell them our order and they can practice ringing it in/writing it down.