Posts Tagged 'starbucks'

Starbucks back on top?

Starbucks the coffee mogul, Starbucks the international meeting place, Starbucks the failure, now Starbucks the news distributor?

I can see the board room discussion that took place two years ago when Howard Schultz came out of retirement and re-appointed himself as CEO.

“We’re losing money and have closed hundreds of stores around the world,” Howard would have screamed across a long rectangular table.

“The internet seems to have taken off, why don’t we do something with that?” A pimply faced intern would have replied.

“I like it! To the keyboards!” Shultz would have said.

And that’s what probably happened. Since Shultz’s return, Starbucks has become the number one consumer brand on social media with over ten million friends on Facebook and nearly one million Twitter followers.

In fact, they decided to go a step further then the status update and on July 1st introduced free Wi-Fi in all of their US stores and a few in Canada.

This is not a new thing, free Wi-Fi is something people now expect from a café and most public places. The crumbled communal newspapers are being replaced by laptops and Apple gadgets.

However, it is the upcoming launch of the Starbucks Digital Network (SDN) that is changing the dynamic of the café.

Partnerships with iTunes, The New York Times, Patch, USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! and others are enabling Starbucks to offer otherwise exclusive content free to their in store customers.

Pay walls on news sites such as The Wall Street Journal can be side stepped upon purchase of a beverage and free downloadable music will be available through their deals with iTunes.

So their stores become downloading hubs. Not being able to find a place within the specialty coffee market has forced the company to give content away for free in order to get back on top.

As they filter information in their cafés to caffeinated consumers, they will no doubt re-invigorate their brand. Sitting in a café on a laptop for hours can equate to multiple purchases as one coffee does not fulfil hunger, only a muffin could tie you over til you’ve reaped all the benefits from the SDN.

Yet the perpetuators of the second wave of coffee may now have started the fourth. This network may very well turn the social part of a café into a point for connectivity, where we all stare at our screens, silently flicking through the web giving whole new meaning to the phrase ‘having a quiet one’.

Catching the ‘Third Wave’

“More, more, more, how do you like it, how do like it,” a big thank you to The Andrea True Connection for this lovely song that captures the current state of coffee culture.

This ‘more’ concept has been dubbed as the ‘third wave’ taking over the fantastic brand power of Starbucks and moving towards additional attention. People aren’t interested in grabbing a cup of something that can easily be made at home, they are looking for skill, individuality and knowledge.

I’ll outline the change through slightly modified dialogue that I used to come across about four years ago:

“Hi what can I get for you?”

“I don’t care, coffee, caffeine whatever just give it to me now! In fact I have a drip connected to my arm, if you could just pour that brown crap into the bag, I’ll be on my way.”

Nowadays I have observed a new form of demand:

“Hi what can I get for you?”

“Well gee I want coffee that’s ethical, artistic and that crema better be the same color as my new brown boots or I’m walking them the hell out of here.”

Can you spot the difference? I know I can but Howard Shultz doesn’t seem able to grasp this evolution nor can he keep up with it. He is, however, combating the culture shift by revamping his stores and getting new coffee machines.

Shultz is replacing automatic espresso machines with automatic espresso machines. He’s also decided to move some furniture and paint the stores a different color. Like a fat kid with their hand in the cookie jar, the company is stuck.

Consumers don’t want to begin the day throwing three dollars down the drain while they watch some pimply faced ‘barista’ push a button with their index finger. If you can do it yourself why pay for it?

Instead they are looking for a café that suits their music taste, age range and spits out a coffee that looks amazing. Ethics need to be met and customers now have the knowledge to demand higher quality that suits their taste. So coffees can now be an 8 oz description of the person drinking it, not a cup full of everyone else in line.

Starbucks cannot compete with this individuality. It’s sad that they have reached the Coca-Cola status of brand identification through speed and consistency yet both have proven to be their downfall.

If Starbucks wants to succeed more needs to be done. Bringing in a machine that closes the margin of error is a dated approach and sadly reflects what little attention Shultz is paying towards coffee culture. Taking time out for skill may help their ‘baristas’ compete with the long list of cafés that market themselves on an experienced niche.

I go to cafés that offer me more because there are coffee shops everywhere. I want a quirky theme and a latte so beautiful I feel like I got a bargain. That’s available now and I’m bypassing speed to get it.

Indecent Espresso

Working Hard

Working Hard

A customer came in the other day demanding a latte. I was happy to make one yet his forcefulness and rapid mannerisms resembled those of a person in a hurry. He most certainly was, as he grabbed the finished product and ran out the door. I felt used, this customer came in wanting one thing, once he got it he ran away, only to be seen again when he wanted another hit.


Being in a rush is one thing, but jamming your demands down my throat as if I’m not fulfilling your request fast enough is another. I’m aware that I’m positioned in a give take relationship with customers, I take the money and they get a service, it’s how most businesses operate. But feeling used can sometimes manifest into a sleazy ordeal.

On that note, I came across an interesting little article the other day that reminded me of this experience, and the goods and services industry as a whole.

Basically, five baristas were charged with prostitution in the good ol’ state of Washington, US. They were apparently “charging up to $US80 ($A92) to strip down while fixing lattes and mochas.” This ‘grab-n-go’ business received numerous complaints throughout the year, yet the girls weren’t arrested, merely slapped on their latte-making wrists.

They were wearing bikinis and exchanged cash for short peep shows which on the upside boosted their male clientele. There wasn’t a brothel behind the bean, just an expensive flash, a mere give and take.

This isn’t the first controversial flesh display that has risen within the coffee community. In 2003, Playboy featured “Starbucks baristas” who “shed their aprons and everything else to make your fantasies a reality.” A business transaction at best, but I remember when this was going on, I happened to be working for Starbucks at the time, a few swarthy customers thought they were being clever asking for more service, puh-lease!

As classy as that all must sound, it seems like an exaggeration of my job along with others in hospitality. You order, we run around trying to accommodate your request in hopes that it’s satisfactory, then you leave and come back for the same service at your disposal. Yes, baristas and their service industry counterparts work hard for the money, some in less conventional ways, but it’s all the same, money in exchange for a pleasurable service, like…coffee. Just don’t expect to find the baristas in bikinis at Caffeine anytime soon, we’re a modest bunch.



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