Starbucks Sells More Custom Drinks Than You Might Expect

If you're well-versed in the Starbucks secret menu or just a pro at creating customized concoctions, you can order everything from a Snickerdoodle hot chocolate to a Blackberry Cobbler Frappuccino from the chain. But making custom drinks isn't just a fun way for customers to mix and match different syrup and milk options — it's also a big revenue driver for the corporation. According to Restaurant Business, modifications made to cold beverage orders account for $1 billion in high-margin revenue for the chain every year.

That's not surprising considering that in Q4 2022, 60% of all the drinks Starbucks sold were customized, and the company is proud of giving customers the ability to modify their drinks. "There is no other coffee company anywhere in the world that has our ability to respond instantaneously to a customer's request about customization, nor there isn't a coffee company that has our ability behind the counter in terms of flavors, syrups, modifiers, foam, et cetera, to provide the customer what they want," former CEO Howard Schultz said on a Q4 2022 Starbucks earnings call. Starbucks considers its ability to offer so many modifications, Schultz stated, a "significant competitive advantage."

You can customize your Starbucks drink over 170,000 ways

We know you can add your favorite syrup or sweetener to a Starbucks beverage, but per the company, there are over 170,000 ways you can customize your drink. Starbucks recommends subbing out its Signature Espresso with Blonde Espresso for unsweetened beverages or requesting your drink to be made "skinny," which means you'll get skim milk, sugar-free syrup, and no whipped cream.

Although the chain provides customers with a few basic ways to modify drinks, Starbucks aficionados know the secret menu items can get far more creative. For example, you can make a Butterbeer Frappuccino by adding caramel and toffee nut syrups plus a caramel drizzle to a Vanilla Créme Frappuccino, or a Thin Mint Frappuccino with mocha sauce, peppermint syrup, whipped cream, matcha powder, and a mocha cookie crumble topping.

However, as delicious as personalized orders are for customers and as profitable as they may be for the corporation, they can be a pain for baristas to make. On February 9, 2023, Starbucks filed a patent for a machine that can help employees whip up customized drink orders more quickly. Whether or not the machine will make the process more efficient remains to be seen, but it's clear drink modifications at Starbucks won't be slowing down anytime soon.