Tag Archives: Starbucks

Dear Starbucks: About Your Croissants

I know you and I are on somewhat good speaking terms. You’re the only coffee shop open at 6am between my home and work, and your coffee doesn’t taste like ass. It’s not the best coffee, but at 6am, I can’t be choosy.

At any rate, since I am one of the few residents of Seattle that doesn’t hate you consistently, I thought that I would be the perfect person to tell you one of your biggest failures.

Your croissants? They’re fake. They’re insulting to anyone who has ever had a decent one. A good croissant should be light and airy on the inside, with a delicate, flaky, outer crust. Yours is little more than white bread, disguised like the French pastry.

I realize that you are looking for a croissant solution which provides the same croissant experience in Seattle that one can have in Miami, but the result of this provides a coffee house option which is either lazy or presumes that the regular American consumer doesn’t know what deliciousness that this little pastry can provide.

It’s a new year, Starbucks. How about we take a moment to make your coffeeshops just a little more bearable.

Starbucks stuck in third gear

It all started with a leaked memo.

In the aforementioned memo, Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz stated the following:

Over the past ten years, in order to achieve the growth, development, and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand.

…and later:

when we went to automatic espresso machines, we solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency. At the same time, we overlooked the fact that we would remove much of the romance and theatre that was in play with the use of the La Marzocca machines. This specific decision became even more damaging when the height of the machines, which are now in thousands of stores, blocked the visual sight line the customer previously had to watch the drink being made, and for the intimate experience with the barista.


Clearly we have had to streamline store design to gain efficiencies of scale and to make sure we had the ROI on sales to investment ratios that would satisfy the financial side of our business. However, one of the results has been stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores vs. the warm feeling of a neighborhood store. Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee.

The response to this memo from coffee fans throughout the States was a resounding “No kidding!!”

The media’s response? Well the Washington Post had a headline that posed the question Is Malaise Brewing at Starbucks? An LA Times op-ed stated it clearly when they said Expanding too far too fast can turn companies from offbeat to bland.

Personally, I don’t think that Starbuck’s sterilization has anything to do with “too far too fast”. It’s simply the logical progression of any company’s goal of “trying please every consumer while squeezing the most profit from them”.

As an example let me bring up the two local coffee shops. From the time I enter the shop, until the time I have a drink in my hand – five minutes. This would include chatting with the barrista, and getting a little extra swirl in the latte. If I entered a Starbucks, it would take about half the time, but without the talk and the swirl.

These are little things to be sure, but when you sacrifice a dozen little things, it adds up to one big thing – namely that you’ve become a soulless corporation.

In thinking of the major brand names in the food world – McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, etc. – the only one I can think of that still has some level of “soul” (for lack of a much better word) is Ben & Jerry’s, and even that’s a bit of a stretch.

Mr. Schultz can’t have it both ways. Either you want power and profit, or you want to really, (and I mean really) connect with the consumer.

tags technorati : starbucks

More evidence of the McDonalds/Starbucks non-story

Nicole reminded me of an important fact – A fair amount of McDonalds recently changed the coffee supplier and are now getting their grind from Seattle’s Best.

The Punchline? Seattle’s Best is owned by Starbucks.

The McDonald’s/Starbucks non-story

Well, it’s not a non-story, but the reality is certainly different than the one being tossed around the internet.

Some back ground: Consumer Reports did a taste test of the brewed coffee from four different fast food places – Starbucks, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Their findings?

Try McDonald’s, which was cheapest and best, or make your own coffee–just call it something special. The other three were all only OK, but for different reasons.

Okay, so they prefer McDonald’s over Starbucks. That, in of itself is no big deal. But the comparison became a quick and easy headline (McDonald’s Better than Starbucks!!) that took off and was repeated in many different places.

So while the idea that McDonalds’ brewed coffee was better than Starbucks’ brewed coffee is kind of interesting, it ignores two basic facts.

  1. Starbucks primarily sells espresso and espresso based drinks. Their brewed coffee probably makes up a small percentage of their sales (I’m guessing in the single digits).
  2. McDonald’s does not sell espresso and espresso based drinks. Their coffee products are brewed only.

In short, the conclusions drawn from Consumer Reports are notable, but the press narrative based off of those conclusions are completely wrong. Wake me up when McDonald’s gets an espresso machine.

And damn them all for making me defend Starbucks!

Technorati Tags: Starbucks, McDonalds, Taste Test, Coffee

Starbucks and McDonald’s according to the New York Times

Let me summarize the two key points in the New York Times piece entitled The Breakfast Wars:

  • Starbucks is hoping that their breakfast sandwiches aren’t as crappy as their pastries.
  • McDonald’s hoping that their new coffee isn’t as crappy as their old brew.

For the record, Starbuck’s new sandwiches are horrible. As noted in the article, when they cool down, they become nearly inedible.

As for McDonald’s – I haven’t eaten there in a long while, but I do note that here in the Pac NW, they are using Seattle’s Best, which is only marginally better than their old drip coffee. Seattle’s Best is also owned by Starbucks, which I find ironic, considering the points made in the New York Times piece.

Side Note: I’m of the belief that if the word “Best” is anywhere in the company name or a product that a company sells, they should have to prove it.

And yes, it seems as if I’m in a bit of a mood today.

Technorati Tags: Starbucks, McDonald’s

Starbucks,Ethiopia and the National Coffee Association

Oxfam, a non-profit group dedicated to working with others to overcome poverty and the suffering that comes along with it, has accused Starbucks of forcing an agreement upon Ethiopia that benefits Starbucks rather than Ethiopia. It started after the following occurred:

Last year the Ethiopian government filed applications to trademark its most famous coffee names, Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe. Securing the rights to these names would enable Ethiopia to capture more value from the trade, by controlling their use in the market and thereby enabling farmers to receive a greater share of the retail price. Ethiopia’s coffee industry and farmers could earn an estimated $88 million (USD) extra per year.

Ethiopia has even gone as far as to consult with intellectual property experts and legal counsel, and has asked Starbucks to sign an agreement that acknowledges Ethiopia’s ownership of its coffee names.

Oxfam then claims that Starbucks asked the National Coffee Association (NCA) to block the country’s bid to trademark the three types of coffee bean in the US.

Starbucks says this is nonsense.They also state that:

Starbucks has never filed an opposition to the Ethiopian government’s trademark application, nor claimed ownership to any regional names used to describe the origin of our coffees.

Which is true. Starbucks has never filed an opposition to the trademark application. That honor goes to the National Coffee Association and their Government Affairs division….which happens to be chaired by
Dub Hay, who in his spare time works for…say it with me…the Starbucks Coffee Company.

Can you say “conflict of interest”?

The solution here is simple…If Starbucks “supports the recognition of the source of our coffees and have a deep appreciation for the farmers that grow them”, then they should ask the NCA to discontinue their opposition to the trademark.

The odds of them doing that? Little to none.

Technorati Tags: Starbucks, Ethiopia, Coffee, trademark

Starbucks news: Coincidence

Has anyone else noticed the timing of these two stories?

  • Starbucks gives the okay for the “create-your-own” latte (previously called the ‘ghetto latte‘).
  • Starbucks decides to raise prices by a nickel.

One probably has nothing to do with the other, but it’s certainly weird timing of both of these news releases.

Technorati Tags: Starbucks