Off The Menu: Starbucks coping with complex drink orders promote on social media

Social media, which offers anyone with a smartphone the chance to make a grab at

Social media, which offers anyone with a smartphone the chance to make a grab at their own 15 minutes of fame, has created a new set of opportunities — and challenges — for food service operations.

As reported on Buzzfeed, one recent social media fad has plagued Starbucks locations, as influencer-wannabes have been using the coffee house chain’s digital platform to create “appucinos,” elaborate drinks that can subsequently be hyped on Twitter, TikTok, and elsewhere in the social media realm.

Starbucks employees have taken to social media to complain of the complicated orders they are encountering as a result of this fad. Adding eight, nine, or more optional ingredients to a drink order can create plenty of time and trouble for a staffer who has to put such a drink together.

One TikTok celebrity who has 9 million followers has been dreaming up, ordering, and posting daily coffee drinks she calls “Starbies.” Baristas themselves are also making a play for social media fame, creating and promoting their own appucinos.

The problem, of course, is that these complex beverage creations, especially if a particular formulation happens to go viral, slow up drink production at Starbucks locations, an issue already of concern for Starbucks patrons and management alike.

For the full story on the “appucinos” phenomenon, go to buzzfeednews.com/article/katienotopoulos/appuccino-tiktok-starbucks.

As a way of honoring the late Andy Yee, the Student Prince and Fort Restaurant in downtown Springfield will be holding an “Ultimate 60th Birthday Party” for Yee. One of the principals in the Bean Restaurant Group that operates a number of area restaurants, Yee died last month.

The June 11 birthday festivities will begin at 5 p.m. and feature live music; the kitchen at the Student Prince will be serving favorites from that restaurant’s own menu, as well as selected Hu Ke Lau specialties. The latter are tributes that reference the Chicopee-based Polynesian-style eatery that was the Yee family’s longtime flagship venture.

The Student Prince will also be celebrating National Bourbon Day on Wednesday, June 16, with a special five-course dinner, each course paired with a different world-class Bourbon.

The Bourbon Day event will begin at 6 p.m.; tickets are $65 with tax and gratuity included. Tickets can be ordered online at studentprince.com.

For more information about either of these events, call the restaurant at (413) 734-7475.

Restaurant industry news reports speculate that Elon Musk, the tech entrepreneur, is planning to enter the restaurant business. The speculation is based on recent U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filings in which Tesla, Musk’s electric car business, has filed to extend Tesla’s trademark protection to include various “restaurant services,” including delivery.

Musk has been experimenting with various sorts of food service at the Tesla Supercharger electric car charging stations his company maintains across Southern California. Earlier this year Musk also tweeted that he was hoping to bring a 1950s style diner to Santa Monica as part of a proposed charging facility in that city.

More news from the “chicken sandwich wars” – Chili’s has joined the fray with a new “limited time only” chicken sandwich plate. The new menu item is part of a June “3 for $10” promotion aimed at the chain’s loyalty program participants.

The deep-fried, hand-breaded breast cutlet is served on a brioche bun; garnishes include lettuce, tomato, and a “secret sauce” that Chili’s has been tweaking and testing for over a year.

The sauce, according to company publicists, “really, really sets [the sandwich] apart.” The condiment’s flavor profile is described as “honey-roasted and a little smoky but … also tangy and sweet with a kind of barbecue sauce feel.”

Though specially priced for loyalty program members, the chicken sandwich, which is currently scheduled to go off-menu at the end of June, can also be ordered by non-members.

Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, the chain that “began” the chicken sandwich wars in 2019, has launched a new “Blackened Chicken Sandwich” that features a non-breaded breast filet rubbed with a New Orleans spice blend. Customers have the option of turning up the heat by requesting a “spicy” version of the new sandwich, which gets an additional jolt from a special mayonnaise blend.

Though they won’t be able to offer their traditional Drover’s Roast event on Father’s Day, June 20, the Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield will be open for dinner that day and is taking reservations.

Call the Inn at (508) 867-2345; the Inn’s office is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Participating Dunkin’ locations are celebrating summer with two seasonal offerings.

“Lemonade Refreshers” flavored with three different fruit concentrates – strawberry, peach, or blueberry – are available in three sizes.

The beverage and snack chain has also introduced “Berry Powdered Donuts,” a cake donut tossed in a pink berry powder. A “munchkin” variation similarly finished with the flavored powder is also available.

Chef Paul Hawthorne, who gained a considerable following at his now-closed Chez Albert in Amherst, has been creating distinctive bespoke fare at a new venture, The Waxwing Cafe on Routes 5 and 10 in West Hatfield.

The Cafe’s late spring menu features dishes such a crab and zucchini latke, rabbit-stuffed cabbage, chicken schnitzel, salmon with spinach and pine nuts, and sea scallops with hearts of palm brown butter.

Hawthorne also periodically offers special chef’s choice tasting menus; the next one is planned for Wednesday, June 16.

The Waxwing Cafe currently operates Wednesday through Saturday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Reservations can be made by calling (413) 247-6113. Limited takeout and curbside are available, with procedures for both posted at the restaurant’s website, thewaxwinghatfield.com.

Another limited-time offering is being introduced this month, this time by Pizza Hut as the chain rolls out a reprise of “The Edge,” a pie variation the chain first promoted in 1997.

“The Edge” is made with Pizza Hut’s “Thin ‘n Crispy” crust formulation. The pie is made with a specially formulated tomato sauce, and features toppings that are arranged all the way to the edge of the crust, which has no traditional rolled up edge.

Four formulations of “The Edge” are being offered — an “Ultimate” with-everything pie; a “Carnivore” with four meat toppings; a “Vegetarian” that’s garnished with green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes; and a “Pepperoni Lover’s” that’s has three times the regular amount of pepperoni piled on.

Participating Pizza Hut locations will be offering “The Edge” for an unspecified limited time.

The MAX Restaurant Group is holding its 9th Annual Lobsterfest on June 20.

A traditional New England Lobster Bake, the “fest” will feature clam chowder, a farm salad, and steamed lobster accompanied by clams, corn on the cob, new potatoes, and grilled chorizo. Dessert is to be strawberry shortcake made with locally sourced strawberries.

Priced at $69 per person, all-inclusive, the Lobsterfest is being held at Rosedale Farms & Vineyards in Simsbury, CT. Two seatings are available, one at noon and a second at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets can be ordered online at eventbrite.com.

Nathan’s Famous, the New-York-style hot dog brand, has been aggressively recruiting other operators to serve as ghost kitchens for a “Nathan’s Famous” delivery menu.

Side dishes: Nathan’s Famous announced that it was bringing back, as part of that “ghost kitchen” initiative, an iconic brand from the 1970s. Nathan’s Famous had acquired the rights to the Arthur Treacher’s fish-and-chips menu back in 2018, and it now plans to offer selected Arthur Treacher’s items through its ghost kitchen partners.

These include Treacher’s UK-style fish and chips platter, various basket entrees, and a fish and chips sandwich. Along with its hot dog items, Nathan’s Famous will license these items to restaurant locations that want to offer them on a third-party delivery basis.

Hugh Robert is a faculty member in Holyoke Community College’s hospitality and culinary arts program and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Robert can be reached on-line at [email protected].