Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Rise and Fall (and Rise?) of the Coffee Giant

Starbucks is circling the wagons, and even closed all their stores this week for a few hours to "re-train" employees on making drinks...

Starbucks Promises Customers Perfection: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

As a big fan of Starbucks, I think this could be a wake-up call for them to get back to what they do best. I have not bought into the thinking that Starbucks has declined because of too many stores. Maybe their stores have lacked some in strategic placement, but for the die hard Starbucks drinker, the Starbucks logo cannot be in too many places.

Has Starbucks lost something in the coffee-espresso business? A resounding "yes." It seems that many baristas do not really know enough about the coffee and espresso beverages they are serving. (Many also do know a great deal about their product, but it seems to be hit or miss in any given store.) I have also seen a lack of concern over the product being served. Part of this is apathy on the part of the employee. Part of this, I believe, is on the corporate level of trying to make more money with fewer employees per store.

I am certainly not a Starbucks exclusive kind of person. Here in Birmingham, though, there is relatively no competition to Starbucks. There are a few privately-owned places, only a couple of which I know to serve really good coffee and espresso (Cool Beans, OHenry's). In my experience, many of the other smaller operations do not have the brewing equipment or the quality coffee to compete with Starbucks. Some of the smaller operations create a neat environment, but for the person who enjoys great coffee, many are just lacking.

Starbucks may have just tipped the scales in the law of supply and demand, but it seems that the company has recognized that it really is their first line of products which has brought them to such heights and it is their first line of products to which they must return.

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