If you’re a frequent Starbucks customer, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of being told your favorite drink or food item is sold out. Shortages have become increasingly common at the popular coffee chain, leaving many customers wondering – why is Starbucks always out of everything?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Starbucks locations are often understaffed and unable to keep up with high demand. Supply chain issues also cause shortages of key ingredients and menu items.

High Customer Demand

One of the main reasons why Starbucks is frequently out of certain items is due to its high customer demand. With millions of loyal customers worldwide, it’s no surprise that Starbucks often struggles to keep up with the demand for popular items.

Whether it’s the morning rush hours, the growing popularity of mobile ordering, or limited store capacity, the demand for Starbucks products is consistently high.

Morning Rush Hours

During the morning rush hours, Starbucks experiences a significant influx of customers looking to kickstart their day with a caffeine boost. This surge in demand can put a strain on the inventory, causing popular items to run out quickly.

Despite the company’s efforts to anticipate and prepare for the morning rush, it can be challenging to keep up with the sheer number of customers during this peak period.

Mobile Ordering Growth

Another factor contributing to Starbucks frequently running out of certain items is the rapid growth of mobile ordering. With the convenience of ordering through their smartphones, more and more customers are opting for this option, especially during busy times.

As a result, the demand for specific items through mobile ordering can sometimes exceed the available inventory, leading to temporary shortages.

Limited Store Capacity

Starbucks has a vast network of stores worldwide, but each location has limited capacity to handle customer demand. While the company strives to optimize its supply chain and distribution processes, there are times when certain items may not be available in a particular store due to limited stock or logistical challenges.

Factors such as transportation delays or unexpected spikes in demand can further exacerbate the issue of limited store capacity.

It’s important to note that Starbucks is constantly working to address these challenges and improve its inventory management systems. The company understands the frustration that customers may feel when their favorite drink or pastry is temporarily unavailable and strives to minimize these instances as much as possible.

By leveraging technology, optimizing operations, and listening to customer feedback, Starbucks aims to ensure a better experience for its customers and reduce the frequency of running out of popular items.

Staffing Shortages

Low Wages and Benefits

One of the main reasons for Starbucks’ staffing issues is the relatively low wages and minimal benefits offered to employees, especially considering the fast-paced, customer-facing nature of the job. The average Starbucks barista makes around $11 per hour, which can make it difficult to retain talent when other food and beverage chains offer higher pay.

Additionally, some store employees have complained about inadequate or unaffordable health insurance options from Starbucks. With tight profit margins on food and drinks, Starbucks struggles to provide the level of compensation needed to fully staff all locations.

Pandemic Impact

The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a huge blow to Starbucks’ staffing levels in 2020 and 2021. Thousands of workers left after stores closed or reduced hours during lockdowns. Some employees found jobs in other industries or chose not to risk potential virus exposure in a busy foodservice environment.

Although Starbucks has reopened dining rooms, many former employees have not returned. In addition, normal turnover increased during the pandemic as stressed and overworked staff left for less demanding jobs. Training all the new hires needed to replace vacant positions has been a challenge.

High Turnover Rates

Even before the pandemic, Starbucks dealt with higher turnover compared to other fast food chains. The nature of the job, with its heavy customer service focus and need for skilled baristas, lends itself to burnout. In 2018, turnover reached 60.1% for company-owned stores.

Coupled with pandemic resignations, finding and retaining qualified workers remains an obstacle. When customers encounter stores that seem understaffed and out of ingredients, it leads to dissatisfaction.

Starbucks commits tremendous resources to continually recruit and train new staff, but gaps persist in today’s tight labor market.

Supply Chain Disruptions

One of the main reasons behind Starbucks frequently running out of ingredients and products is supply chain disruptions. These disruptions can occur at various stages of the supply chain, causing delays and shortages.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the common factors contributing to these disruptions.

Ingredient Shortages

Starbucks prides itself on using high-quality ingredients sourced from around the world. However, this commitment to quality can sometimes lead to ingredient shortages. Factors like extreme weather conditions, natural disasters, or pests can affect the availability and quality of certain ingredients.

For example, a coffee crop failure in a major coffee-producing region can lead to a shortage of the specific beans used in Starbucks’ signature blends.

Moreover, increased demand for certain ingredients can also strain the supply chain. As Starbucks continues to introduce new seasonal offerings and limited-time products, the demand for specific ingredients can spike, leading to temporary shortages.

Manufacturing and Distribution Issues

Manufacturing and distribution issues can also contribute to Starbucks’ supply chain disruptions. These issues can range from equipment malfunctions at manufacturing facilities to delays in shipping and logistics.

For instance, if a production line breaks down at a coffee bean processing plant, it can slow down the entire supply chain, affecting Starbucks’ ability to meet customer demands.

Additionally, distribution challenges can arise due to transportation issues or inadequate inventory management. If a delivery truck gets delayed or encounters mechanical problems, it can result in delayed shipments to Starbucks stores, causing temporary shortages of certain products.

Delivery Delays

Delivery delays from suppliers can further exacerbate Starbucks’ product shortages. If a supplier fails to deliver the required ingredients or materials on time, Starbucks may experience disruptions in its production process.

For example, if a milk supplier faces logistical issues, it can impact the availability of milk-based beverages like lattes and cappuccinos in Starbucks stores.

Furthermore, external factors like traffic congestion or adverse weather conditions can also lead to delivery delays. These uncontrollable events can disrupt the supply chain and affect the availability of Starbucks’ products in stores.

While Starbucks strives to maintain a smooth and efficient supply chain, occasional disruptions are inevitable. However, the company continues to work diligently to address these challenges and ensure that customers can enjoy their favorite Starbucks beverages and treats.


In summary, Starbucks often struggles to keep items in stock due to a perfect storm of high demand, inadequate staffing, and supply chain problems. While frustrating for customers, shortages are likely to persist until Starbucks can address chronic understaffing and other operational challenges.

The good news is that Starbucks is a smart, nimble company that knows how to align operations to customer needs. With some adjustments to wages, staffing levels, and supplier relationships, Starbucks should be able to get back to delivering on its promise of speedy service and product availability.

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