Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dipping Into One Of Starbuck’s Dirty Little Secrets

There is a completely appalling story about Starbucks that has nothing to do with their burnt-tasting coffee.

Apparently, in every one of their TEN THOUSAND retail outlets, including those overseas, they leave cold water running in Dipper Wells ALL THE TIME.

Dipper wells are stainless steel, can-shaped containers with holes around the top and a drain at the bottom. They have a faucet over them. The idea is that the container can stay filled with water, while at the same time be constantly draining, so that there’s fresh water to rinse the spoons and other coffee-making utensils super quickly. They are also a common fixture in ice cream shops.

So this is the deal: The dipper wells drain the water continually, while still providing a container of water to quickly rinse a spoon in. First of all, GROSS!!! How does dipping a milky spoon into COLD water get it clean anyway? Secondly, the waste of water (one of the earth’s most pressing problems) by leaving these taps on, is simply shocking and inexcusable: 6.2 million gallons of water every day...enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool every 83 minutes, as reported by a British newspaper.

The water in some of those dipping wells (there’s good video here) looks completely murky and gross…and I just don’t get the use of COLD WATER?!!

Starbucks also claims that the constantly running water keeps the taps clean. Well, they’re not doing that for every other tap in the place and THOSE are supposedly clean. If clean water is coming from the tap and only clean hands are touching it, then why the concern?

They say use of these devices is standard operating procedure in many food service operations. Well, obviously, it’s time for a new procedure immediately!

Why in heaven’s name don’t they just use one of those superfast three minute dishwashers and lay in a double amount of spoons? REALLY, this is absolutely OUTRAGEOUS.


Nikki said...

#1: I worked at Starbucks for four years. I worked at no less than 45 different stores (In NC & FL) during my tenure there. Never under my watch were the wells left on. It's not something that's done.
#2: the spoons are rinsed off after each drink. They don't need anything more than that. They're only stirring milk, not being licked. They are sanitized every hour...wait no...two. Well, they are supposed to be. #3: Yeah, that water can get gross. I'm not saying it doesn't. But it can also be changed (the water well, I mean). And it is SOP to have the water well.

But hey, go into 10,000 restaurants and ask a line cook how often he cleans his knife. Oh..I mean, sanitizes his knife.

Sue said...

Hi Nikki,
Thanks for taking the time to comment. Now, I'm just really confused. I read probably 30 different stories before I wrote this post and Starbucks has ADMITTED that, yes, it does do this and that it's part of their sanitation policy. Here's a quote from one report "Starbucks confirmed its standard procedure for its partner stores to leave tap water running all day long. The practice is carried out at all 10,000 Starbucks shops worldwide." (That was my first link.)

Here's a direct quote from Starbucks. Find it here:

"Starbucks challenge is to balance water conservation with the need for customer safety. The dipper well system currently in use in Starbucks retail stores ensures that we meet or exceed our own and local health standards. Dipper wells use a stream of continuous fresh-running water to rinse away food residue, help keep utensils clean and prevent bacterial growth. This technique is common and well-accepted in the industry.

Although our current water usage adheres to the World Health Organization, United States Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union directives for all in-store water supply standards, we recognize the opportunity exists to reduce our total water usage.

In order to minimize water usage in our stores, store partners (employees) are encouraged to keep the dipper well flow to a minimum during operating hours. They are instructed to turn it off completely when the store is closed.

Starbucks would like to reassure our customers in the UK and Ireland that we are working as a priority on alternative solutions to change the policy of leaving the dipper well tap running. We are committed to further reduce water usage in our stores."

Emiline said...

That's terrible! Hopefully they will be changing their procedures soon.

Adam said...

Well that is rather interesting. I personally thing we'd all be appalled at many food establishment practices. I think part of the reason I've never worked in a food prep job is because I'd rather be left in the dark sometimes. Maybe it's another reason to cook at home :)

a said...

thanks for this information...I just sent them an email because I was so disgusted by how wasteful that is. Plus, every drink with espresso i've gotten there has always tasted burnt. for years! ridiculous!

Nikki said...

Ok, let me rephrase: during the day, yes...the wells are on. At night they're turned off. I think Starbucks addressed the issue properly, about water conservation. And I don't see what's so "gross" about it.

Sue said...

It sounds like they're looking into it.

You are soooooo right. There's definitely something to be said for what we don't know can't hurt us, fallacious as that may be.

Good for you! It takes a lot of milk to make their espresso palatable.

Hi Nik,
Yeah, of course they turn them off at night, but that's A LOT of water left on all day in all their thousands of stores. I just hope they're really looking into it.

Lee said...

I used to work near a Starbucks that was located within a well-known national retail chain and those water wells were left on all night and THAT was SOP for those particular Starbucks locations. The water would be running when I came in to bake at 330am and the store closed at 10 pm. And YES, those water wells are supposed to be changed every hour. Just like the half and half and soy containers that are left out for customers are supposed to be changed every two hours. There are still certain things in Starbucks I don't go near anymore because of the experience of working near them.