What does Starbucks have in store now??

As some of you may have already seen, Starbucks has plans for tomorrow. With Howard back at the reigns it seems he is pushing to bring the original ideals of the very first Starbucks stores back. As you can see on their website they are promoting a big change tomorrow, 04.08.08.

Thru a couple sources, I have read online that they will be implementing their original logo and original brown color scheme on some in-house print materials and cups. Have also heard they are planning on including the roast dates on coffee and I imagine espresso whole bean.

Another release I have heard is in the works is their "Pike Place Roast" which I imagine is a new house blend of sorts? Supposedly, with this "new" coffee they also plan to implement a shorter (30 minute) holding time for their brewed coffee.

The other day here in Portland, I walked by a Starbucks in a busy neighborhood here in Portland and was a bit shocked to see this sign on each of the doors:


This is at a location that is a block away from coffee bars including Peet's, Caffe D'Arte and numerous Stumptown accounts. Are they serious? They have their two super automatic machines pulling the "best" espresso in Portland?

So what does all this mean? Obviously, we are seeing a recognition from Howard, that the quality based independent retailer is major competition. For years indy coffee houses have been raising the bar with education, quality coffee, and consumer awareness. Another aspect they are planning on focusing heavily on is customer loyalty. With substantial offers to card holders, the big green also sees the huge value in developing regular customers, like us independents try so hard to do.

This is all in addition to their purchase of the Clover, which I have heard is being called "fresh pressed" coffee in a couple cafes in Seattle, and can be ordered in ceramic cups, while the coffees being explained in detail to order.

I plan on following what goes on tomorrow, the next week, month, etc. very closely. As this industry becomes more and more competitive, it will be so key for all of us to have our finger on the pulse of where we are headed. Many of us are already doing many things right, but to succeed in many markets, everything must be perfect.

I am interested in hearing what others think about how this will effect the short and long term future of the industry. Can Starbucks really reposition themselves as the "neighborhood" coffee bar, which is quality driven?

- Matt

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Comment by Phil Proteau on April 9, 2008 at 3:58pm
It looks like the free cup was between 9am and 9:30am, so nationally that's what, 31,468 free cups of coffee in 30 minutes? (that's what you call fuzzy math) The Partner who served me must have been way outside of the free time period. I love when they treat me special.

Ed, they are definitely playing ball. They are the kid who walks up to the street court with cheap shoes and a really expensive brand new pair of basketball shorts, made from the shinny material. Now all they have to do is take it to the hoop, and nobody is going to listen to any complaints about wrist slapping.

I thought the brightness was more like Tang, and less like lime, but still it was a nice surprise.

As far as people going out of the way to get a great cup of coffee, certainly. The freshness issue and the coast to coast consistency will, I fear, put a lot of mom and pop shops to shame. The general consensus will continue to be that independent shops just can't get it right most of the time.
Comment by Matt Milletto on April 9, 2008 at 1:18pm
Phil, I went in at 2pm and I believe I paid $1 for my 8oz cup. My sis is the one who paid, and she had order some green tea frap drink ... :) Never heard the words free ...
Comment by Ed Kaufmann on April 9, 2008 at 1:06pm
Today one of our customers (a Starbucks employee), brought us a pound of Pike's Place Roast. I noticed that it had a "Scooped On" date. Hey it was scooped today!! By Josh!! I don't know who Josh is nor do I know where it was scooped from but I thanked the gentleman who brought the gift and we brewed some in the Clover. We split it up and talked. He was drinking Rwanda Golden Cup #14 next to his Pike's Place Roast so I thought that was funny. It had a roasty front, very little to the middle and a roasty aftertaste. It wasn't carcinogenic like I expected though. It wished it had more sweetness in the middle. It really was balanced and not burned to a char although it was roasted further than what we are used to. The the last sip I had released a little surprising lime juiciness that made me smile a little. My expectations were exceeded not that they were very high to begin with. I think in a way it levels the playing field a little. If they wanna play ball, let's play ball. I still think people will go out of their way for a superior cup. What does everyone think?
Comment by Phil Proteau on April 8, 2008 at 6:10pm
I had pretty much the same experience. The employees were really nice, explained it was a "Latin American" blend, and I even got in a discussion with the Coffee Master about logging the wasted coffee, and tracking waste in general, after I saw him pour out a bunch of Pikes Place that was 30 minutes old.

Here is what I wrote about the coffee at my blog

"As for the coffee itself, I have to say that I had my hopes and expectations very high. I have been reading on the Starbucks employee blog how much the Partners themselves enjoy the new blend with less cream than they normally use, and how highly they regard this new national sensation. My first whiff of the aroma reveled a lot of cocoa and caramel. At it’s hottest, I thought at first that it came across with just a tiny bit of phenolic-ike "fresh plastic" note, but at a more reasonable drinking temperature it was definitely the most pleasant coffee I have ever tasted from this company. The finish still betrayed the beginning of roastiness, but in comparison to their other coffees, it was really well restrained in it’s roast level. There was a discernible and pleasing amount of brightness also, which was a surprise. However, the roast level was just a bit past what might have expressed a more dominant origin character. As a result, there was a certain lack of complexity. Still, the coffee was very well balanced, very fresh, and all at a very good level of extraction. Did I mention it was free? I asked for a 12 oz, and the Barista let me know I could have an 8 oz free of charge. I said OK."

Matt, did you pay for yours? They were giving away the 8oz as promotional items here.
Comment by Joe Marrocco on April 8, 2008 at 6:01pm
Matt,

First of all, and from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for tasting the starbucks coffee and giving us the rundown on it so that we don't have to. You are a man's man taking that bullet for all of us. I knew you cared about the indy market, but I didn't know you cared that much!

Secondly, there is no way that this move is going to put the locals out, that is... if the locals are offering high quality coffee. I don't care how well Howard knows business, how quaint he makes his monster seem, or how many tricky signs he pus in his windows. We have something unique and real. I think the word "REAL" sums it up nicely. Starbucks is fake. It tastes fake, it feels fake, it looks fake, it IS fake. People will know this. As soon as a person enters a REAL coffee house, they will feel it. This is where we beat the mermaid. We have to know our stuff, offer the best, and make our coffee houses home.

One more thing... is anyone else enjoying watching Howard sweat, squirm, and scramble to find ideas that will beat us. I know I sure am. I am grateful for what Starbucks did in the beginning. But, it's our day. It's the farmer's day. It's the customer's day. Let's pour some love in our next latte.
Comment by Matt Milletto on April 8, 2008 at 3:22pm
04.08.08 report

Ok, so I went to a Starbucks on Division this afternoon to see what all the hype was about. Walking in, I immediately saw a whole retail section with new Pike Place whole bean, 5lb, 1lb, and .5lb bags. It looks like they also have added more to their consumer line of french presses, demitasse and capp cups, etc.

I asked the barista about the new blend and he said it's the new Pike Place Roast, they will have it everyday, and brew a new pot every half hour. I ordered a "small" and was pleases to here him ask, "like an 8oz short?"

The coffee is not half bad, and I over heard him describe it to someone else as a "latin blend", but don't quote me on that. You can taste that it is still a bit darker roasted than a lot of coffee that I prefer, but it was served at a good temperature, not scalding hot, and had a lot of flavor, different than brewed coffee I have ordered at sbux before.

It looks like the thermal carafes they are using are 1.5 litre as well, hence the higher turnover, less waste I imagine.

All to go paper cups are branded in the old skool brown and white early mermaid logo, and there is a lot of literature and promo stuff about their first 1971 store. Everything says FRESH ROASTED COFFEE thru out the store, and there was a sandwich sign outside on the sidewalk that said "Coffee Roaster Daily by Our Master Roaster" ...

Another thing I notice was that their customer loyalty cards are EVERYWHERE. You can even "customize" your own card or customize one for a friend. I see this as being a more neighborhood cafe approach, not so much in a more transient location ... but then again their stores are all over the place.

Ok ... all for now. The baristas at the store I went to seemed genuinely interested in explaining the new changes and were friendly.

I am curious to hear from some of you in other parts of the US that have witnessed the 04.08.08 changes.

- Matt
Comment by Nick Griffith on April 8, 2008 at 11:01am
I love it when companies sell their coffee based on the "Roasts", just as much as companies that sell their wine based on the color. Red or white?

It's always a clear indication they have no idea what the hell they're doing.
Comment by Phil Proteau on April 7, 2008 at 5:41pm
That's why I use *$
Comment by Matt Milletto on April 7, 2008 at 5:34pm
don't confuse bX with *bX :)
Comment by Phil Proteau on April 7, 2008 at 3:33pm
Two words, "Light Roast".

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