Starbucks training initiative

the business of coffee houses

Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby barry on Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:02 pm

Rich Westerfield wrote:this i's more a one-time opportunistic tactic than an thought out, reasoned component of a longer-range marketing/branding plan.



I'm sure during his last long-range planning session, Mike mentioned "y'know, when Starbucks closes down all its stores for three hours sometime next year, we should give away free coffee."

Of course it doesn't look like a strategic component of a marketing plan; it is a reactionary tactic in response to a heretofore unheard of event. Should we let opportunities pass because they're not part of some plan?
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby Matthew Brinski on Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:29 pm

I think that it's a decent move on the part of Coffee Klatch or whoever else may decide to do the same. It's an opportunity for exposure, plain and simple. I equate it to the likes of offering free beverages during a new shop opening or floating a customer an espresso "on the house" while they are waiting for their large skim latte.
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby Rich Westerfield on Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:59 pm

barry wrote:Of course it doesn't look like a strategic component of a marketing plan; it is a reactionary tactic in response to a heretofore unheard of event. Should we let opportunities pass because they're not part of some plan?


It depends what you're selling.
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby Mike White on Tue Feb 26, 2008 5:57 pm

Here's an article that was just posted on abcnews.com about it. Some NYC notables were quoted;

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Story?id=4350603&page=1

The fact that it's even being discussed here is kind of silly, really, but I may as well contribute too...
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby phaelon56 on Wed Feb 27, 2008 1:19 pm

I visited the neighborhood Starbucks today - just down the road from my office. Ordered a double espresso and a double shot "short" latte (which is an 8 oz to-go cup at Starbucks) but requested both drinks "for here". Drinks were nicely presented in appropriate size china cups with saucers. The espresso seemed to have a bit more body and be a bit less "watery" than their super-auto shots were before the training. That's good. And the milk for the latte was nicely textured - also good. I remain unenthused about the "signature roast profile" due to my personal preferences but based on this limited sampling it seems that the changes they've made are positive ones.
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby bz on Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:23 pm

a commenter at my place has been culling the *$ employee blogs and coming up with some fascinating stuff. like:

I just got back from the training. Well, I got back an hour ago - the last hour was dedicated to excitedly telling my SO about it.

I’ve worked at two mainstream coffee shops previously. I was management in one, and a barista in another. NEVER have I seen such dedication to the customer, or such cleanliness! I wouldn’t drink coffee anywhere else after working with Sbux for three days. The training highlighted the main points -

Pulling the perfect shot. Yeah, it’s not the old style machines (which, naturally, I miss dearly), but they’re not totally flawed. The beans are ground seconds before being brewed. Everyone was given a refresher on what to look for in shot quality - timing being the most important, visual and flavor closing in at a second. Now, EVERY EMPLOYEE knows how to do it perfectly. NO EXCUSES.

Steaming milk. It’s going to be good - thick, creamy, ‘beautiful foam’- on top of your latte. NO EXCUSES.

Customer care. Letting you, the customer, feel comfortable enough to let us know if we screwed up in ANY aspect of your drink. Then, we can remake it for you. And make you happy. NO EXCUSES.


and:

Also - to the partners out there - we ARE getting more time to make the perfect drink. Starting next week, each espresso drink earns 5 seconds more of labor. That averages about 35 hours of increased labor per week for the average store! Thanks Howie for backing up your commitment and promises to us with increased labor to make the best drink possible!


being intimately familiar with the pressures of a publicly traded company, this all strikes me as bean counting disguised as quality improvement. which is what corporate executives tend to do when the stock price is under pressure. that simple.

sbux.png
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby phaelon56 on Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:50 am

this all strikes me as bean counting disguised as quality improvement.


I don't disagree with that but if the result is a better drink when I'm traveling and Starbucks is my only good option... then I'm all for it. And I remain convinced that when Starbucks raises the bar a bit on drink quality it benefits quality driven independents. If someone tries an espresso based drink rather than drip coffee when at a Starbucks and likes it enough to try one at a good independent... there's a chance that shop will gain a new customer who drinks the higher revenue drink. Yes - more bean counting but it helps.

In many retail businesses adding labor hours can at best only improve the customer service experience (which may or may not increase revenue) but in this situation there are other benefits. Whether or not it increases overall same store sales, boosts their bottom line and makes Wall Street happy or doesn't... remains to be seen. I think they'll have to use a targeted marketing campaign to get real traction from their new initiative.
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby bz on Thu Feb 28, 2008 6:05 am

I think they'll have to use a targeted marketing campaign to get real traction from their new initiative.


i dunno ... they've gotten an awful lot of free press over the last few days. in that sense, it WAS a brilliant move, if not likely to substantially improve quality, and at the very least sends a loud message to shareholders: "we're doing stuff."

NOTHING is done with a purely altruistic motive at a publicly traded company. the big coup for an executive whose stock price is under pressure is finding a way to say you're improving quality while also saving money/boosting revenue.

note the reaction of the partner i quoted. this is clearly the message being passed to them.
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby onocoffee on Thu Feb 28, 2008 6:24 am

This whole Starbucks thing has really been low on my radar. I even thought about walking down to the Starbucks at the corner and handing out drink cards, but it was misting and I really didn't give a crap enough to do it.

And while Starbucks has received millions in free publicity because of this stunt (it's a brilliant move, really), can we be so quick to dismiss a potential ignition of enthusiasm in their Baristas?

Hasn't this "Third Wave" thing been about sparking the interest and enthusiasm of not only our customers but our own rank-and-file, as well? If Starbucks can jump start their Baristas, is that not a good thing for our movement?
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby bz on Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:35 am

sure, jay. the people i quoted above are clearly enthused. i'm not necessarily disagreeing that positive pr and maybe more enthused baristi may indeed be a result. incremental quality improvements, too. all good.

my point, though, was simply to recognize what's really going on. i can tell you that the prime motivation is almost without a doubt boosting shareholder value. not a good or bad thing -- just reality. i've been a business reporter for years, and also work for a formerly adored multinational company whose stock is now under sustained pressure. the plan under such circumstances is near-universal ... implement highly public "strategic" improvement measures while holding the line on spending, or even cost cutting at the same time. rarely is such an approach as dramatically effective as the PR makes it out to be -- there's not much real investment in three hours of training. in fact, the free press and likely bump in sales will easily wipe out any revenue losses from those three hours.

it was an easy move to make ... and also probably intended to be window dressing for shareholders. that's just life on wall street. altruistic notions of exciting staff or improving quality figure in remotely.
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby onocoffee on Thu Feb 28, 2008 9:48 am

Ben, I hear exactly what you're saying - which is why this initiative has been a "non-topic" for me.
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby barry on Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:03 pm

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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby phaelon56 on Fri Feb 29, 2008 6:12 am

bz wrote:
I think they'll have to use a targeted marketing campaign to get real traction from their new initiative.


i dunno ... they've gotten an awful lot of free press over the last few days. in that sense, it WAS a brilliant move, if not likely to substantially improve quality, and at the very least sends a loud message to shareholders: "we're doing stuff."

What I mean (and should have stated clearly) is that in order to get long term traction that produces more bottom line same store revenue over an extended period of time they'll need to reinforce the public perception. Not talking about shareholders and stock price
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby Aldo1 on Fri Feb 29, 2008 8:14 am

I think that seeing this as only a PR move, for shareholders and customer growth, is a limiting view. PR is a good thing, no doubt, but I see this as a product, pricing and employee enrichment tactic, as well. All of which should pay off in growth -- not just the publicity aspect of it all.

What else could they have done to improve both real and percieved product and service quality? And with steeply increasing coffee and milk prices, one had better be talking quality product to justify price increases. Besides, it is hard enough to move one store futher along the quality continuum and get a staff of 5-15 people all doing things better, let alone trying to move a small planet of stores/employees in that direction. So I applaud them.

A good resut from this initiatve that I hadn't previously considered: I read some things on the blogs and message boards where many SB baristas reported an increase in enthusiasm and 'esprit de corps' after the training. Good for SBs and for the thousands of coffee employees working for SBs, I am glad they are getting more enjoyment and enrichment and I'll bet that alone results in more enthusiastic coffee and espresso conversations everywhere. And THAT should lift all boats (love that metaphor).
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Re: Starbucks training initiative

Postby Deferio on Sat Mar 01, 2008 7:16 pm

Rich Westerfield wrote:Mike Perry also said in a widely circulated press release that "a coffeehouse without a roaster in it is like a bakery without an oven."


That's more like a "roastery without a roaster"...nice try though...the idea is there at least.
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