Coffee to the Core (Language Revision)

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Every new addition to the Starbucks experience brings with it a new kind of customer.  It’s kind of like Diner Dash, I don’t know if any of you have ever played that game but as your diner gets bigger and better, you get more and more diverse customers with different wants and needs.  Every time Starbucks introduces a new product a new kind of customer pops in to take a peak.   These new customers are what has made it possible for Starbucks to expand to almost 21,000 stores worldwide, there is no arguing that Starbucks is a thriving business.  

 

In a Fast Company intervierw, Howard Schultz responded to a question regarding Starbucks’ straying too far away from their core values.  “Well, you have to ask: What is the core? We have 40-plus years of acquiring real estate and designing and operating stores all over the world. We understand how to elevate and romanticize an experience built around a beverage.”  He makes it clear that the company is about the “experience” built around the beverage (Coffee), and not necessarily about the coffee itself.  While Starbucks is offering their high quality coffees and expanding everything around them are staying true to their core.  

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So let’s discuss some of these additions to the experience, one of Starbucks’ most monumental and expansive projects wasthe Frappuccino.  Frappuccinos are sweet and creamy and appeal to those that A) Need some caffeine but don’t want too much of a coffee taste B) Want a cross between a milkshake and slushy that may or may not contain coffee or C) want something sweet.  Frappuccinos are some of the most detailed and complicated drinks that Starbucks has to offer and they increased sales and expanded the customer base to kids, non-coffee drinkers and those with a serious sweet tooth.  A Frappuccino is a $4-$5 drink, and because of the varieties that Starbucks offers and their popularity, they alone have significantly increased profits.  So, are frappuccinos true to the core of Starbucks?  According to Bryant Simon “A cup of coffee is just a drink. But a frappuccino is an experience.”  If the core of the company lies in creating experiences around coffee then yes, absolutely frappuccinos meet the criteria.  

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Food was another huge addition to the Starbucks experience.  Starbucks food has expanded within itself multiple times since its introduction and it is currently essential to the experience.  At the headquarters in Seattle, Starbucks has a number of researchers for everything that you could imagine.  Testers create food items and pair them with coffees so that they are selling items that pair seamlessly with coffee offerings.  It is not just about the food, but about the food’s being paired with the coffee.  So for those customers that want Starbucks to focus solely on coffee, they are.  They are focusing on creations that go well with the coffee, it is still all about the coffee!

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I have not told you much about how these things are harmful to customers; it just seems as though they are creating more things to pair with the coffee or create with the coffee, but some believe that the coffee itself is becoming irrelavant.  For the most part, these expansions are excellent for customers, we are never bored and we are constantly being given new coffee based experiences to buy into.  The most coffee-focused customers are not buying.  Today, one of my brewed coffee customers seemed to be a little irritated while waiting in line, I didn’t have time to ask him how his day was going then and there but when it was time for me to wipe-down the condiment bar he was there fixing up his cup of joe so I decided to ask, “Why so down in the dumps today?”, he responded with a “All of these people with their lattes and frappu-cappu whatevers stand at the register and try to sound out their drink longer than it takes for you to make it!” He was joking, but he was visibly frustrated by the people were so into this specialty coffee that he didn’t understand.  It’s customers like him that feel like the expansion that happens takes away from the coffee.  It’s the customers that are truly all about the coffee itself that feel as though they are being overlooked, but how can you appeal to the customer that has what they want and doesn’t want anything new, but is upset about what the company is doing for others?  You can’t.  Starbucks will continue to create an experience for everyone that they can, and the risks taken are worth it when the rewards are so great, you can’t please everyone, but Starbucks has something that pleases most.  

Series #2: Coffee to the core

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With every new addition to the Starbucks experience comes a new kind of customer.  It’s kind of like Diner Dash, I don’t know if any of you have ever played that game but as your diner gets bigger and better, you get more and more different kinds of customers with different wants and needs.  Every time Starbucks introduces a new product one of these new customers pops their head in the door to take a peak.   These new customers are what has made it possible for Starbucks to expand to almost 21,000 stores worldwide, there is no arguing that Starbucks is a thriving business.  

In his interview with Fast Company, Howard Schultz was asked if the new projects that he was taking on were straying too far from the company’s core values to this Schultz responded, “Well, you have to ask: What is the core? We have 40-plus years of acquiring real estate and designing and operating stores all over the world. We understand how to elevate and romanticize an experience built around a beverage.”  Here he makes it clear that the company is about the “experience” that they continue to build on around the beverage (Coffee), and not necessarily about the coffee itself.   As long as Starbucks is offering their high quality coffees but expanding everything around them then they will never technically stray from their core.  

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So let’s discuss some of these additions to the experience, one of the most monumental and expansive projects taken on by Starbucks was the introduction of the Frappuccino.  Frappuccinos are sweet and creamy and appeal to those that A) Need some caffeine but don’t want too much of a coffee taste B) Want a cross between a milkshake and slushy that may or may not contain coffee or C) want something sweet.  Frappuccinos are some of the most detailed and complicated drinks that Starbucks has to offer and they increased sales and expanded the customer base to kids, non-coffee drinkers and those with a serious sweet tooth.  So, are frappuccinos true to the core of Starbucks?  According to Bryant Simon “A cup of coffee is just a drink. But a frappuccino is an experience.”  If the core of the company lies in creating experiences around coffee then yes, absolutely frappuccinos meet the criteria.  

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Another huge addition to the Starbucks experience was food.  Starbucks food has expanded within itself multiple times since its introduction and it is now essential to the experience.  Starbucks has a number of researchers for everything that you could imagine and they are all housed at the headquarters in Seattle.  Testers create food items and pair them with coffees so that they are selling things that pair seamlessly with their coffee offerings.  It is not just about the food, but about the food’s being paired with the coffee.  So for those customers that want Starbucks to focus solely on coffee, they are.  They are focusing on things that go well with the coffee, it is still all about the coffee!

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I have not told you much about how these things are harmful to customers, it just seems as though they are creating more things to pair with the coffee or create with the coffee, but the coffee is still relevant.  For the most part, these expansions are excellent for customers, it means we are never bored and we are constantly being given new coffee based experiences to buy into.  The most coffee-focused customers however are not buying.  Today, one of my brewed coffee customers seemed to be a little irritated while waiting in line, I didn’t have time to ask him how his day was going then and there but when it was time to me to wipe-down the condiment bar he was there fixing up his cup of joe so I decided to ask, “Why so down in the dumps today?”, he responded with a “All of these people with their lattes and frappu-cappu whatevers stand at the register and try to sound out their drink longer than it takes for you to make it!” He seemed to be joking, but also slightly frustrated that people were so into this specialty coffee that he didn’t understand.  It’s customers like him that feel like the expansion that happens takes away from the coffee.  It’s the customers that are truly all about the coffee itself that feel as though they are being overlooked, but how can you appeal to the customer that has what they want and doesn’t want anything new, but is upset about what the company is doing for others?  You can’t.  Starbucks will continue to create an experience for everyone that they can, and the risks taken are worth it when the rewards are so great, you can’t please everyone, but Starbucks is working to have something that pleases most.  

Series post #1: Should Starbucks continue to expand their customer base? Or should they stay true to their core existence as a coffee house?

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starbucks-frappuccino

Starbucks Coffee is the world’s most popular coffee shop, but in recent years the “coffee” part of that name has been overshadowed by the introduction of teas, Frappuccinos, pastries, breakfast sandwiches, Evolution juices, and an array of merchandise that includes CDs and Mobile squares.  Starbucks is no longer a coffee shop, it is a third place that sells items to please just about every kind of customer, oh, and some coffee too.  Is this brand expansion a good move?  The answer from Howard Schultz is a resounding Yes!  From a business standpoint this expansion has been incredibly good, from the introduction of the Frappuccino alone came 9% same-store growth, 6% increase in foot traffic, and a 3% increase in average purchase price.  These numbers are HUGE.

Starbucks is interested in appealing to every customer and this is why they have focused so much on expansion but some argue that this focus is misguided and that they should focus more on their coffee beans and on their brewed coffee offerings because they need to stay true to their core values as a coffee shop.  Coffee bean sales are a constant struggle for Starbucks stores, because so much attention is focused on new food and drink offerings that they do seem to have lost focus on their whole bean coffee customer base, but is this really a loss if they have expanded every other customer base to the extent that they have?

Starbucks shows no sign of slowing down on their expansive journey, Howard Shultz stated in an interview with Fast Company, “I think despite the growth and development and the size of the company, we’re still in the early days of what Starbucks might become.”  In many ways, the core of Starbucks is not just about coffee, it is about a culture and an experience that is present in every Starbucks store.  Why should Starbucks be criticized for attempting to make this culture and experience available to as many different people for as many different reasons as possible?

What many people fail to understand is that Starbucks is putting in a huge amount of time and effort to make sure that they are meeting and exceeding the needs of their customers. When a customer calls corporate with an idea or suggestion, Starbucks really does listen.  To give you an idea of the huge amount of customer feedback Starbucks gets here are a few statistics:

  • 27,238 COFFEE & ESPRESSO IDEAS

  • 12,748 FOOD IDEAS

  • 8,849 STARBUCKS CARD IDEAS

  • 1,433 NEW TECHNOLOGY IDEAS

  • 6,796 ORDERING, PAYMENT & PICK UP IDEAS

  • 12,113 Atmosphere & locations ideas

  • 7,764 SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IDEAS

Starbucks is expanding because that is what the majority of their customers want, but if they spread out too far and lose touch with their existence a coffee shop they may begin to lose some of their oldest and most loyal customers.  Does the huge amount of customers gained make-up for those lost with Starbucks’ loss of focus on good ‘ol brewed coffee?

I want to touch a little bit on a few of the major expansive projects Starbucks has undertaken and look specifically at how this expansion has changed the experience.  Expansion and adaptation is key to a successful business and Starbucks is by far one of the most successful businesses of our time, but balance is everything.  I know for a fact that each expansion project has done something good and something bad for the company, and they have weighed the risks and rewards carefully in most cases to make sure that the reward exceeds the risk.  With each non-coffee bean related expansion it seems that the focus on coffee bean sales and brewed coffee sales has dropped, and thus these customers are beginning to feel overlooked.  Based on their track-record they are willing to take the risk.

Starbucks as Our Third Place (Revised)

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When Howard Schultz thought about Starbucks “He had a vision to bring the Italian coffeehouse tradition back to the United States. A place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home.”  He has worked diligently and successfully to create and become this place for millions of people across the world and he and his associates are continuing to become known as this third place for people every day.  So, what is a third place?  It is a place that is chosen by the individual, a place of comfort and freedom, and a place that is psychologically desired by all.

“People have had third places throughout history, and they’ve ranged from taverns to coffee houses to barbershops. They’re definitely better than street corners. Third places are different from first or second ones because we go to them in our in-between time – their voluntariness is what makes them so special and unique.”

-Ray Oldenburg, PhD

The following are stories about real customers that come to visit my store everyday, who are all examples of people who consider Starbucks to be their third place, whether they know it in so many words or not.  

 

*Names have been changed*

Shirley: The little old lady that lives across the street

Every day, Shirley takes a walk across the street to visit her Starbucks and her favorite baristas.  She takes this walk sometimes up to 10 times per day always with the same little smile on her face.  Sometimes she comes in and sits for hours reading a book and then takes the walk back home only to return 45 minutes later.  Other times she meets up for dates with the man she’s been crushing on for years but didn’t get the courage to talk to until they noticed that they’d ordered the same drink. Starbucks is her “third place”: She finds comfort and wonder in taking her daily trips to her coffee shop because it is a staple in her life and she can’t imagine her life without it.  A few days ago I told her we all loved that she comes to visit us so often, and her response was “*laugh* I don’t visit often enough!”  She has found her home away from home inside the little toasty coffee shop that is one of 21,000; There are 21,000 spaces that can be this place for someone like Shirley, why wouldn’t that be desirable for a society seeking comfort?

 

Alex: The VERY busy businessman

Alex jumps out of his s-class Mercedes and stops in for his daily chocolate croissant, venti ice-water and triple-venti-no foam-latte every morning and knows all of us baristas by name.  “Good Morning, Alex!”  I say to him as I throw his croissant in the oven and put his cups in queue before he has to tell me his order.  He greets me by name and tells me I’m doing a great job; “Hey Mia, What’s with all of these new faces?  I’m in a hurry and you guys always get me out of here, but now I’m not so sure.”  We recently got a lot of new hires and transfers in a very short time and this has made regulars like Alex uncomfortable.  Alex associates the speed and comfort of knowing that his drink and croissant will be made well and quickly with his happiness that he’s chosen our Starbucks as his third place.  People become as particular about the goings on at their third places as they do in their own homes and workplaces which further solidifies this idea that Starbucks is personal and important to people on more than a consumer level. 

Starbucks: Connecting People Throughout the World

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“Our mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” -Howard Schultz

 

Starbucks has been on this mission for the past 40 years, and today they are connecting people “one person and one cup at a time” in 20,891 stores in 62 countries throughout the world.  This is a huge expansion in a relatively short amount of time considering they started as a little coffee shop in Seattle, Washington in 1971.  

 

Starbucks is now marketing impeccable service and an “Experience” to the entire world,  an experience that creates comfort and familiarity and is acting to connect us all no matter where we may end up.  Starbucks built their foundation in America as a third place, a place that provided an amazing customer experience even before it provided an amazing drink.  After this foundation was built it was time to take it global.  This experience is consistent and reliable and is the key to Starbucks’ global success.  Knowing that you will get the the same drink with the same attention to detail no matter what Starbucks you walk into across the globe is comforting and is why Starbucks is so loved, it is a constant and it provides us with the comfort that we so desperately seek but rarely find.  

 

I can tell when I walk into a Starbucks here or anywhere else in the world that they have taken special care to ensure that I am getting what I want.  There is a feeling that everything is personalized when you walk into a Starbucks store, and this personalization is what keeps people coming back.  What we can see from Starbucks’ global success using the same mission in every country is that we all, as human beings desire the same thing: Comfort.  We want something that is ours and can be a shared experience and that provides comfort all at the same time and Starbucks has made it its mission to be this for all of us. 

Starbucks as our Third Place

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When Howard Schultz thought about Starbucks “He had a vision to bring the Italian coffeehouse tradition back to the United States. A place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home.”  He has worked diligently and successfully to create and become this place for millions of people across the world and he and his associates are continuing to become known as this third place for people every day.  So, what is a third place?  It is a place that is chosen by the individual, a place of comfort and freedom, and a place that is psychologically desired by all.

“People have had third places throughout history, and they’ve ranged from taverns to coffee houses to barbershops. They’re definitely better than street corners. Third places are different from first or second ones because we go to them in our in-between time – their voluntariness is what makes them so special and unique.”

-Ray Oldenburg, PhD

The following are stories about real customers in my store who are all examples of people who consider Starbucks to be their third place, whether they know it in so many words or not.

*Names have been changed*

Shirley: The little old lady that lives across the street

Every day, Shirley takes a walk across the street to visit her favorite Starbucks and her favorite baristas.  She takes this walk sometimes up to 10 times per day always with the same little smile on her face.  Sometimes she comes in and sits for hours reading a book and then takes the walk back home only to return 45 minutes later.  Other times she meets up for dates with the man she’s been crushing on for years but they finally got to talk over a cup of coffee at their favorite Starbucks.  Starbucks is her “third place”: She finds comfort and wonder in taking her daily trips to her coffee shop because it is a staple in her life and she can’t imagine her life without it.

Alex: The VERY busy businessman

Alex jumps out of his s-class Mercedes and stops in for his chocolate croissant, venti ice-water and triple-venti-no foam-latte every morning and knows all of us baristas by name.  He tells us to keep working hard and promptly pulls out his smartphone to continue to talk to one of his clients.  Always courteous, always in a hurry but always has time for Starbucks.  Starbucks is his third place, he has home, stops by his place of consistency and comfort, and heads off to work.  Starbucks is a constant in his life, as his home life changes and his client list expands he can always count on the same latte and croissant to get him through his day.

James: The one who’s been here longer than any of us.

Mine was one of the first stores to open when Starbucks really started on it’s nationwide (and now global) expansion.  James was the third customer in line on opening day and continues to visit 1 to 3 times every day.  He sits outside and basks in the sun with his tall iced coffee and talks to the other regulars; it’s like they’ve created a little club!  There is a social network that is built inside of mine and every other Starbucks in the world, this network is created by Starbucks’ being the third-place in millions of people’s lives.

It All Started With a Bean (Revised)

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I have read a number of articles over the past week that have opened my eyes to the influences that coffee and specifically coffee’s caffeine content and the affect it has had on world culture.  For the purposes of this blog I will mainly be focusing on Coffee’s history in America and specifically Starbucks and their influence on culture, diversity of coffee, and on trade throughout America and the world.

It is amazing to think that a little bean filled with flavors and caffeine can give way to a movement that has changed the world.  Coffee was a monumental discovery; I can’t imagine the working world without their coffee.  It may even be possible to directly relate our productivity and efficiency with the explosion in coffee’s popularity following the Boston Tea Party.  Where do you think the idea of the “Coffee break” came from?  It came from employers noting how much more work got done when their employees had had their coffee.  Caffeine is the world’s most used legal stimulant drug and coffee just happens to be the most popular vessel through which it is consumed. Fact:  83% of American’s drink coffee!

In this blog I will be discussing coffee, the affects that it has had on our culture and the affects that it has on us in our daily lives.  And throughout each post I want you to keep in the back of your mind this idea that it all started with a little bean.

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