New Starbucks drive-thru menu omits tall size drinks and prices

31 Aug

I rolled through the Starbucks drive-thru this morning on my way to work to order a latte and noticed that the drive-thru menu got a facelift. The newly-designed three-panel menu featured pictures of all the major pastries and drinks but it was missing one thing — the listing and pricing for tall sizes. The new menu seems to indicate Starbucks now only has two sizes — grande and venti (or medium and large, in Starbucks speak).

I snapped a photo with my cell phone camera and tweeted it via Posterous while I waited in the drive-thru line for my grande latte. I knew they hadn’t eliminated the tall size from the menu because, admittedly, I ordered a tall latte the day before INSIDE the Starbucks. So why did Starbucks omit the tall size from their latest drive-thru menu design?

I asked the woman who handed me my drink and she said she was unaware of the change and thanked me for telling her. I asked @Starbucks via Twitter and as of this writing have yet to receive a response.

But I can’t help but believe it’s because Starbucks wants to encourage drive-thru patrons to order a larger, more expensive coffee concoction.

sbux menu 1

In fact, the new menu omits a less expensive Starbucks staples altogether — plain hot Mochas. Instead, the newly-designed menu emphasizes the Mocha’s more expensive sugary sisters: The Caramel Macchiato and the seasonal Toffee Mocha. You can still order a tall drink via the Starbucks drive-thru. The new menu offers a concession with the lines: “Looking for something else? Please ask us.”

For some reason, this menu change really started to grate on my nerves. So on my lunch break, I went back and snapped some better photos of the menu. I also went inside to inquire about the change. An employee told me the change was made Saturday night. The employee worked the drive-thru Sunday morning and said customers kept asking: “Can I still order a tall drink?” The employee drove around back at the end of the Sunday shift to look at the sign and noticed it was changed.

sbux menu 2

It has been suggested that Starbucks may have omitted the “tall” size and pricing from the new drive-thru menu to make more room for the photos of the drinks. Indeed, the previous menu did not feature photography of every drink. However, there is plenty of room on this new layout to include one more listing for the small ahem, excuse me, tall size.

I totally support local coffee shops whenever I can. The only reason I go to this Starbucks is because it is the only coffee shop on the way to work. Most weekdays I brew my own coffee at home, but I do splurge on Starbucks at least once a week.

How can I be so worked up over a design change like this when there are wars being fought and oil-soaked beaches to clean up? Well, it just seems shady to me. It seems like Starbucks is trying to encourage people to order bigger drinks, which come with a higher price tag and calorie count. And I don’t think it’s fair for this massive coffee chain to make a change like this without someone pointing it out. So thank you for letting me get this off my chest and off my camera.

What do you think about the change?

*UPDATE 9.1.10*

The Consumerist picked up my post!

*UPDATE 9.14.10*

I was just contacted by editors at The Consumerist who tell me Starbucks will be altering its menu to include tall sizes again! Since my blog post, the story has received national media attention, including articles from MSNBC, USA Today and

28 Responses to “New Starbucks drive-thru menu omits tall size drinks and prices”

  1. ilinap August 31, 2010 at 4:18 pm #

    Shady indeed! As if consumers aren’t fleeced enough by the food industry.

  2. John Martin August 31, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    Personally, I don’t like Starbucks’ coffee–it’s too strong, especially since I drink it black and don’t put anything in it to “cut” it. But what I want to know, is if you order a “Tall” size through the drive-thru, do they just go ahead and ring that up for you and give it to you? You said you ordered a Grande, and knowing you, I’m kinda surprised you did, Ginny. :-) I picture you “sticking to your guns” and “bucking the status quo,” which you actually did afterwards with all of the follow-up. I guess I’m just surprised you didn’t do it “on the spot” with a Tall order.

  3. mary nations August 31, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    Blame our sugar overlords! The pictures sure look good!

  4. Diana August 31, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

    You got so worked up because you are a coffee Fanatic!!
    Nothing wrong with that!

  5. Ginny August 31, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    John: Thanks for your faith in me not conforming. For the record, I had planned on ordering a grande today even before I pulled up in the drive-thru. My order was not influenced by the new sign. But you’re right, I should’ve given them hell over the drive-thru speaker because I could.

  6. Jenn August 31, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    Perhaps the person designing the sign could not take the insanity of calling the smallest size a Tall anymore and had a stroke mid-design. In all the confusion, what with the ambulances and the worker’s comp forms, no one realized that the designer had not finished and put the design up as-is.

  7. aburtch August 31, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

    No wonder the general public thinks of corporations as money-sucking thieves. When they go out of their way to omit inexpensive options, leading you to higher priced items, it’s hard not to believe the stereotype.

    PS – on an unrelated note, this is the first time I’ve read your blog. For some reason, my firewall at work lists under “porn.” I’ve even asked IT to unblock it but to no avail…

  8. Jennifer September 1, 2010 at 6:48 am #

    You should be angry. It’s definitely an effort to make more money, but over time, it’s moves like this that have made America unaware of what a real serving size is supposed to look like.

  9. DeeDee September 1, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    I was irritated with the sign change too, and I’m a veteran Starbucks patron. It seems silly to show what an iced coffee looks like!

    Here’s a little known fact: they call the “smallest” size a tall, because there is actually a short. It’s the same size they use for a kid’s hot chocolate. When trying to watch my calories, I will sometimes order a double short nonfat latte… Usually without any hesitation from the Batista.

  10. Adam Covati September 1, 2010 at 11:00 am #


    I don’t think you’re wrong to be angry, but I’ll give you a few reasons from Strarbucks’ point of view as to why they would do this.

    1) As you stated, it pushed people to order more expensive items. Yes, this is a slightly ‘evil’ approach, but it works, the power of suggestion is strong. They are already charging you a pretty hefty fee for flavored water, but they make more money by adding sugar flavorings.

    That’s marketing, it’s the same with car companies, they almost never show the base model on their commercials, why would they? It’s not as enticing.

    2) Less is more. This is a universal truth in sales – less options makes decision making easier. While people like options and the ability to customize things, having less options prevents a paralysis by analysis.

    3) Pictures make decisions easier – it’s more enticing, you can picture yourself having it. Like you said though, that means you have to cut the fat from the menu to fit pictures on it.

    4) Put the best sellers on there – again, space is limited, so they can’t list everything, so they only list those that sell well. It may very well be the case that most people don’t order a plan Mocha, so they’d rather list the fun variations that people like.

    I’m not saying that i support the changes. However, I’ve been in the position of having to present simpler options to customers before and I can’t say that they’ve done a bad job of it.

    You have to put your best foot forward and present the options that provide a good balance between variety, enticing, and compelling.

    BTW, if it irks you that much then take a cue from me and start going to Dunkin Donuts more ;)

  11. Mike September 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    Glad to know I am not the only one who had a problem with this!

  12. Heather September 2, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    I just experienced the new menu this morning and I was completely taken off guard. I drink it on occasion as a special treat so I do not have a ‘usual’ order that I can spit out it .2 seconds, i.e “Tall half calf half decaf, skinny, no whip two pump vanilla latte no whip, extra swirl, etc etc..” I like to look at the ‘listed’ menu items in ‘text’ and pick something. I was totally lost this morning with that new menu. The Starbucks lady must’ve thought I was a complete idiot as I was bumbling around not knowing what to order. Interestingly however, as I was up paying for my order, she told me that the truck behind me didn’t like the menu either. She said she kept having to tell people, “yes we still have everything available that was on the previous menu”. She also said she had not looked at the new menu. You’d think Starbucks would have at least clued their employees in on what the new menu looked like so they could at least know what their customers were experiencing.

    Anyway, I was irritated enough to get to a computer and google “new drivethru menu at starbucks sucks” and found this posting. Glad I am not the only one that is somewhat annoyed.

  13. indigo September 4, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    Only selected US Starbux have visuals. We Canadians can do w/o visuals quite well 4 the longest time. We can imagine our lattes.

  14. Marc September 9, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    If this is all you have to be upset about, life must be good for you.

  15. Kaelyn September 12, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    I think that it is a little funky that Starbucks only shows the two biggest sizes, but actually I didn’t notice that today when I saw the new sign. I just thought it looked nice. Also, as someone who worked as a barista at Starbucks for three years in high school and college, please never yell at the person working the drive-thru about something that is so obviously not their fault. Trust me, they get enough rude customers already.

    By the way, on the whole size-naming issue that everyone seems so inclined to criticize the largest size is Venti which means 20 in Italian. That is the number of fluid ounces in that size of drink. Originally the only sizes offered were short, tall, and grande. I don’t really understand why people complain about that so much. It’s really not a difficult concept to grasp.

  16. Susan @WhyMommy September 15, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    Hmmmm. Saw Ilina’s post today on FB — WAY TO GO to make change!

    Yes, today it’s just a relisting of the small/tall size — but think of all the people who aren’t going to be as tempted towards extra calories/sugar at the drive-thru now!

    Nice work!

  17. Arlee Bird September 16, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    Here in Los Angeles we have the added confusion of fast food employees who don’t speak English well. I prefer smaller sizes these days so I like to order “small” even though “small” has been eliminated from many menus. I am amused by the linguistic confusion my orders sometimes create. The order takers will get confused with the comparative and superlatives of descriptions as I describe what I want. I often get a wrong order no matter what because the order takers either don’t understand well or just don’t pay attention. Rather than get angry, I might as well have fun with it and just resign myself to poorer service.

    Tossing It Out

  18. Jackie September 16, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    Yea Ginny!! I am soooo proud of you. (I came over from Di’s blog. She’s a sweetheart and we’ve become very good friends.)
    You go girl!

  19. Barb September 16, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    Good for you, Ginny! I’ll think of you when I order my Tall.

  20. Azure November 23, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    I hate Starbucks Picture Drive-thru Menu. As if we need to feed the dumbing-down of America by placing pictures up instead of the functional WORDS on the menu. Wtf, I have to search a selection of drinks to find what i am looking for when I should be able to read a few headlines, choose a category, find my drink, and then order what I want. Isn’t this supposed to be convenient? Is it too much to ask those drinking froofy drinks to also be able to read?

  21. Danielle Kyle November 23, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    This whole thing infuriates me! Why does corporate America insist on dumbing us down to illiterate imbeciles. I love going to Starbucks. No, wait let me rephrase that. I LOVED going to Starbucks. Now I would much rather take the time to hop out of my car and visit my local coffee bistro. If I wanted McDonalds then that’s where I would have gone in the first place. This is rediculous and contraticts everything that Starbucks has claimed to stand for in the past.

  22. Danielle Kyle November 23, 2010 at 8:04 pm #

    Here is a facebook petition I started against this “new Starbucks” please take a second to “like” it and sign it if you get the chance.!/pages/Petition-Against-Starbucks-New-Pictures-Only-Menu/178779042134988

  23. Briana Espinoza December 23, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    Yea Ginny!! I am soooo proud of you. (I came over from Di’s blog. She’s a sweetheart and we’ve become very good friends.) You go girl! Love, Jackie

  24. jaqueline ibarra March 17, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    its ma life!

  25. jaqueline ibarra March 17, 2011 at 9:18 am #


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    Friend, this url is undoubtedly fabolous, i only enjoy it

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Starbucks Shortens Drive-Thru Menu by Removing ‘Tall’ « Diva Diaries - September 15, 2010

    [...] The Consumerist first noted the absence of the “tall” size from the new menus, citing blogger Ginny Skal. [...]

  2. Douglas-Russell Photographic » Blog Archive » Drink menu pictures - July 24, 2011

    [...] New Starbucks drive-thru menu omits tall size drinks and prices … Aug 31, 2010 … The newly-designed three-panel menu featured pictures of all the major pastries and drinks but it … [...]

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