Why Starbucks' In-Store Menus Have Shrunk Over Time

If you've noticed that Starbucks' menus seem to be shrinking, you're not the only one. According to the chain, there are more than 170,000 ways to customize your Starbucks beverage, which include choosing from a plethora of milk, sweetener, and java options. And per Restaurant Business, the company makes $1 billion in high-margin revenue every year from modified cold beverage orders. Yet, many store menus only show select options for grande drinks, plus any featured or seasonal creations. So why is it that Starbucks' in-store menus have shrunk over time?

As a spokesperson for Starbucks told HuffPost, the shortened menus mark an attempt to make ordering easier. The idea is that for newer customers, or those who aren't as familiar with all the modification (and secret menu) options, ordering from a shorter menu might be an easier pill to swallow than choosing from an overwhelming variety of drinks. Plus, a limited set of listed beverages makes it quicker for the customer to order, and easier for the barista to understand what the customer actually wants.

When it comes to restaurant menus, less is more

Starbucks may be one of the best-known establishments to showcase a shrinking menu, but plenty of others have joined in. During the pandemic, chains like Denny's, McDonald's, and Dave & Buster's also simplified their options, which helped them streamline operations and focus on the menu items that were delivering the highest revenue. Customers didn't seem to mind. In the McDonald's case, the chain found that its customer satisfaction scores actually increased with less menu choices. But this isn't just a pandemic thing — a study from Harvard Business School concluded that part of the reason why smaller menus are better is that more choices may lead to lower-quality items.

In shrinking its in-store menus, Starbucks is choosing to draw customers' attention to strategic places. For instance, it displays beverages primarily in the grande size because research shows that as the middle size (with tall and venti being the smallest and largest), you're more likely to order it. In 2010, the chain removed the tall size from drive-thru menus completely so that the more popular grande and venti choices were on display. The new versions reduced the options from 75 to 25 items. And it's not only the menus that are shrinking — the company is now experimenting more with smaller pickup, delivery, and drive-thru only locations following an increase in their store traffic.