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April 10, 2008

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Coffee Lover

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, because I love this company. It is an American success story and has achieved an iconic stature for its brand. However, shame on Schultz for rolling out, and the way he rolled out, the new Pikes (?) coffee for the following reasons:

1) There was nothing wrong with the existing coffee in the first place! To choose the coffee as the focus of a revitalization strategy is puzzling and clearly off the mark. It ain't the coffee that's undermining this business. Try starting with wait-time, the biggest gripe by far among customers ("guests") in line and pricing (we're in a recession, duh!).

2) The new coffee is too bland. Starbucks customers like coffee that has some dimension to it. The new coffee has brewed all of the dimension out of the blend to make it "smooth," aka bland.

3) The 30 minute brewing cycle is wreaking havoc in stores throughout the country! This faster cycle time literally has baristers scurrying to keep up with the accelerated cycle time. Result: Customers are having to literally wait as much as three minutes for the coffee to become available! Nothing infuriates a Starbucks cusotmer more than waiting on the interminable lines that are so pervasive at Starbucks than to get to the front of the line and be told, "We're out of coffee. We're brweing another batch right now. Can you wait three minutes?"

If this is the height of Starbucks capacity to right this ship, we're in trouble, my friends.

Thoughts?

Coffee Lover

What are your ideas of speeding the service up? Mind you that I run a store where I am only given so much labor hours, at the highest volume of times can have 5 people on the floor... i do my best to keep two lines going constant in the front and drive-thru manned with 3 people at all times...

I would love to be able to speed up service, but in keeping the experience and legendary customer service up, there is only so much we as a store can do.

I understand that the new roast is not what Starbucks has had in the past, but there is a constant demand that our coffees don't taste burnt. If you don't like the new brew, and our stores are no longer brewing the bold choice, one can always ask for a pot to be brewed right then and there.

Sorry, just had to throw in my two cents.

z

coffee lover- wow. just wow. you sound more of a time lover. you're willing to sacrifice quality for speed, which is the same principle that starbucks has built it's empire on.

don't get me wrong- I agree that starbucks recent moves are in the wrong directions, because starbucks now CANT compete with quality coffee, and their attempts at it are akin to the mcdonalds specialty burgers- they are what they are, but will never compare to real burgers.

starbucks should stick with what it's good at- mediocre coffee quickly, with slightly above average service. it's too much of a behemoth to affect much change.

I am glad that starbucks exists though- because all of those "coffee lovers" that go there would be in line in front of me ordering their ridiculous concoctions, taking half an hour to explain that they want "3 and 1/2 splendas", and "eew this tastes too much like coffee". you can keep going to your milk and sugar store.

the cool factor is gone from starbucks.

josh hagquist

coffee lover:

wreaking havoc? come on...it's about adapting to new standards. our store didn't have any hang-ups or wait times. it's called learning how to rotate your coffee urns.

and...the new coffee IS NOT BLAND. it is flavourful and smooth. smooth is not a bad thing.

my wife and i went to mcdonalds yesterday. their "premium" coffee is HORRID and their iced coffee is even worse. i don't even think there is coffee in their iced coffee.

Lor

pike's place it's not necessarily just for ppl who don't like starbucks.. but it's like a more subtle type of drip black coffee that people who normally don't get drip coffee can get.

i personally don't like black coffee. and alot of people dont like it either, especially starbucks coffee, b/c they think it's "too strong" or "burnt", etc..

the new pikes place is a good and easy blend that will eventually lure new people/consumers to trying starbucks and their black coffee.

~lor ♥

MusicGal

First of all, a reminder- NOT "pike's place", it's "pike place"! As a Seattle-ite I have to defend the honor of Pike Place Market.

Secondly, you guys just aren't happy with anything Starbucks does, are you? What do you want them to do? Every move Schultz makes, you guys are breathing down his neck criticizing everything. Give him a break! When you run a world-famous company, you can try dealing with competitors, customers who want the impossible, and annoying critics like yourself!

Give him a break, guys.

Yesterday I walked into the Starbucks and got myself a cup of grande coffee, as soon as I added a cream to it I noticed a difference... Well, when I tasted Pike Place Roast "coffee" the only think I wanted to do is cry

Starbucks has lost me as a customer, and not just because of shity coffee, but because they served it to me without even asking me.

P.S They might as well change their logo with adding big donut around it

13yearcustomer

I don't find PPR bland at all. Actually, I find it has much more depth with less STUFF in it. It doesn't mix well with milk and sugar at all. That's very interesting to me and ranks up there with the likes of fine brews and wines that need to be enjoyed in certain ways to be richly experienced.

Or something...

I have never worked at Starbucks and I don't plan to. Nevertheless, I am a very frequent customer. I never see people resting on their laurels. They are hella busy. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems quite possible that if some of the extra stuff that has crept into te stores over the years were discarded or minimized, they would not have to shoehorn in 30-minute brew recycling. :-( I feel very sympathetic for you guys in the Green Apron.

I totally agree with the article. As a long time employee I think it is a horrible coffee. I went yesterday to purchase a tall coffee. As I took my first sip once back in my car, I thought it tasted worse than almost every other coffee we previously brewed as coffee of the week. The article is spot on, we made a coffee for non starbucks coffee drinkers. I will not be purchasing, thank god there will still be another choice for now. I can't' believe Howard is touting this as the best coffee Sbux has ever sold!?! I would have to disagree, now Arabian Mocha Java that was a good coffee.

josh hagquist

this all makes me laugh...

EVERYTHING starbucks does is wrong...misguided...calculated...blah blah. they introduce a new coffee. it sucks. they don't introduce a new coffee...all their coffees suck. the change the logo...it sucks. they drop the breakfast sandwiches...that sucks. they have breakfast sandwiches...they suck. which is it? whatever starbucks does isn't good enough for any of you with constant complaints. peetes isn't perfect. your local indie shop isn't perfect. grow up.

i applaud mr schultz for actually doing something...he said changes were coming and they have been. good for him and i think it is good for the company.

13yearcustomer

Oh, I forgot to say that Starbucks sux. LOL! ;-)

Jason

I went by the store on Tuesday, and was given a card: Good for a free small cup of their coffee every Wednesday through end of May.
Not sure how wide-ranged it is.
This is in Hillsboro, Oregon.

jason

Sorry, forgot, free small cup of their NEW coffee. Pikes stuff only.

Ok, like it or not, starbucks is mass market... and whether or not you think this is a good idea or not, I think I have gotten almost all positive reviews, except for a person who said 'I wish they would bring back lightnote it was the best coffee starbucks ever had!' people like it, I like it, and all the rest of the baristas like it.

Pike is 'entry level' coffee, something anybody can easily start or end the day with. It satisfies the vast majority of our regulars and we are always ok with doing a french press for the ones who want it.

Starbucks is for 'people who don't like starbucks' think of the core bevs, WM, M, CM super sweet, and just a hint of coffee. fraps are coffee flavored but are mostly sugar Coffee free drinks and are becoming more and more popular, HC VCR VBF DCCF ect. This company is about everything but coffee, but we need some good coffee for the people who think it is about coffee, and we now do.

Jason

"What are your ideas of speeding the service up? "

- Try adding a meter / sensor to the coffee pots. There's no excuse for not knowing when the pot is "getting low" or "getting cold" anymore.

First of all Jason..There is a sensor on our brewing urns, that alerts the partners when the pot is below standard temps, it causes the light on the urn to blink, and combined with the standard timer we keep on all these urns, there is no excuse to serve cold coffee. And, there is a way you can tell whether the coffee is getting low, and that's just by looking at the clear glass window on the urn..When the liquid in the window gets low, you move and rebrew another as a backup, or you stage it to where you can start brewing as soon as it runs out(If you are low on urns for whatever reason)..As a partner, I have started to ignore the critics, because most of them are just frustrated that Starbucks won't ever be dead, and that as soon as the recession is over, Starbucks will be positioned for success, becuase we are getting all the kinks out now. No matter what we do as a company, people will whine, because we're a big corporation, and as we all know, big corporations are bad, according the commies in the media, and the "commies" that tend to be the main people critical of the company..When the new changes start to result in more sales, and a higher stock price, you won't see Wall Street saying anything about how the coffee tastes..

Coffee Laura

The reasons why pike place coffee is so "bland" because people add too much cream and sugar. Before starbuck's coffee was so "burn" and strong you needed to add cream to calm the acidy taste.

I don't think people taste the coffee black before adding cream.

Coffee Laura

Here's a solution to fix the brewing wait time:

Set the timers to 25 mins and when that goes off start brewing a new batch of coffee. While you serving the first pot of coffee.

Chuck Lawson

Bland? Wow... It's only bland if the only taste you're used to looking for is burnt over-roasted.

I tried a cup last night, and thought it was really interesting. Some stone-fruit-ish notes, a winey but not overpowering body, and a bit of hazelnut in the finish. Wouldn't be my go-to brew, but not bad at all, and a large cut above their previous brewed coffees.

Frazzled Barista

Pike Place is a lighter roast because a lot of people complain about how dark we roast our coffee. It's not half bad, and I don't get why people are bitching about it being like Dunkin Donuts coffee. It clearly is not; God knows how old the beans are that DD uses, and Pike is roasted and shipped to stores within 14 days of being roasted. We have always had mild roast coffee (light note, Breakfast Blend, House, etc) and no one has complained about them before. I think that people just like to bitch and moan about Starbucks because we are Starbucks.
About speed of service; I cannot fly, stetch myself beyond human capacity, materialize your drink or sandwich, or force the coffee to brew any faster. At my store we have 3 urns of Pike two urns of Bold, and one urn of decaf at a time. If everyone in line is ordering Grandes and Ventis of brewed coffee, we do (gasp!) sometimes run out of coffee. Wouldn't you rather a nice fresh cup of coffee, than a bitter, expired and bottom of the urn cup. It also takes time to properly steam milk, and at least 15 seconds to pour a double shot so that it doesn't taste like black death. So please don't ask for your 6 shot venti, 12 pump vanilla, soy, extra foam,2 splenda, 2 honey packet latte the second I give you your change. It won't be ready yet, and besides espresso drinks are handed off at the bar. We are people folks, just like you. Do you like it when people expect the impossible, and astoundingly insane from you at work?? Well guess what, neither do we. Please have some respect for us folks in the green apron. In return we will give you legendary customer service and a quality product. If you treat us like peons than yes you actually deserve what you complain about.

jmistake

very good tasting chuck. i agree with you on the subtle flavour notes this coffee has.

:)

anna

we are not supposed to STAGE the coffee. it is to be spoodled fresh, and then immediately brewed. We made the same mistake on the first day, until someone looked it up.

13yearcustomer

*SOB* LEAVE STARBUCKS ALONE *SOB* THEY WERE ONLY TRYING TO MAKE GREAT COFFEE *SOB* THEY HAD A BAD YEAR *SOB*

javocado

What are people talking about?
The coffee, Pike Place, tastes great!
And I am a huge Gold Coast fan.

That being said, people really have complain to be happy in life?

I had a great experience in Burbank CA yesterday. The manager took the time to taste the coffee with me, she did a French Press and compared it to the drip brew of both the Gold Coast and the Pike Place.
We then tasted the other coffee side by side, and I realized, I love my gold coast, but with cream. I really enjoyed the Pike Place black.

The store was not super busy at 1pm, so it was nice to get the extra attention.

Just a hearty recommendation of the store by the burbank airport! Thank you to the black apron manager! (sorry, i forgot your name!)
Jim

Dude

F-ing customers are never satisfied... every little move the company makes, there's always a friquen whiner desperately trying to tear it apart... if it's such a battle, why bother going to starbucks? why don't you get off your lazy ass and make the coffee yourself?

Reality check:

Much of Starbucks business is selling paper cups of unhealthy flavored syrup to people who don't much like coffee.

does anyone think the idea of sectioning off Starbucks would be cool...and espresso station, a cold bev station, a brewed coffee station.
It'd be like a fair and going to your favorite stand.

PMD

I just started at Starbucks part time after being a loyal customer for a long time and I am disgusted to see all these people complaining. If you don't like the changes that Starbucks is making, please find a coffee shop that suits your tastes. We would like to serve customers that appreciate the excellent customer service, fresh coffee, and fun atmosphere that we provide at Starbucks; not ones that are so quick to criticize every move we make.

Thank you to all the great customers with positive things to say about us. If you ever experience an issue, we are happy to investigate it and make it right. We appreciate you!!

StLouieDrip

I sooo loved James Poniewozik's article. The writing style had me LOL, and the points he made were right on the money from my perspective. I love coffee so much I'd wallow in it and drink it all day long. I even love my leftover dregs (don't you judge me, LOL). But I'm too sensitive to the caffeine and acidity so I'm only allowed about 12-16 oz a day, (and that's only when I'm lucky). I also had the same exact thoughts as Poniewozik, that PPR is the sbux coffee for people who don't like sbux coffee. And I really don't have a problem with people who want a lighter roasted coffee. There are many who feel that sbux had long-neglected those who prefer a lighter roast, so sbux certainly should include them. But I do have a problem PPR will be the everyday default after sbux has been the company that got so many of accustomed to the darker roasts. It just doesn't make logical sense to me to make PPR the everyday default while leaving the "bold" crowd on the fringes.

"none of the super-richness of my favorite Sumatra (which I looked longingly at on the menu while ordering the Pikes Place..."
I did the exact same thing, looked up at the new menu board, and my inner child screamed (but where's the Sumatra??? wahhh!!!). They actually had taken it off the board to make room for all the new PPR information. [sniff]

"Pike Place is Starbucks' attempt to address complaints that its regular cup of joe is bitter, overroasted and "burnt." The criticisms are partly valid (the result of roasting beans black..."
And I also wish sbux would have put its efforts towards roasting the dark beans so they aren't burnt. I do know it can be done, because I've had cups like that at an indy. I've heard many say that sbux used to roast like that as well. Too bad that wasn't included in part of getting back to the way sbux used to do things.

The other thing that occurs to me is that every urn of PPR will taste different. Compared to weighing, scooping is an imprecise measurement, and some are more heavy-handed. Also the urns get out of adjustment in other ways. I already knew that Verona and Sumatra never taste the same from store to store. (Yes, sometimes my beloved Sumatra is a very sad disappointment.) Maybe PPR is the coffee that makes those differences even more obvious?

Morgan

The PPR-when I tried it, I was hugely disappointed. I thought, "Great, McDonalds at Starbucks." I tried another, the next day, and it was better. The third and fourth and fifth cups tasted better and better to me. Now, I think it's good coffee. No, it's not Sumatra or Komodo, but it beats the HECK out of the Italian and Verona, which are both blacker than my mother-in-law's heart. It has a lot more class than Breakfast or House...I may wind up being a fan and won't have to order Americanos when the "black roasts" are up anymore.
But the brown logo cups? Somebody miss that day on colors in marketing class?

If you all hate Starbucks so much, then why do you post on this forum???

BTW, I applaud Frazzled Barista and couldn't have said it better myself.

I had 2 cups of PPR at 2 different locations. The second was better, but I still like the burnt, smoky, over cooked blends that made Starbucks famous! The coffee is great! No need to change the product. It seems like everything else is what screwed things up.

May C

Being a long time Starbucks drinker who is also a shareholder, I can understand why Starbucks needs to make some changes in order to compete. If McDonalds' coffee and other places that serve generic diners coffee are getting attention for having a better cup of coffee, then, I think Starbucks is right in doing something to stem the tide.

I still prefer my French roast and other stronger coffee but that's me and I'm in the minority for a lot of things.

I think I did remember tasting Pike's Place Roast last year as one of their limited edition roasts and didn't think much of it. I actually prefer their anniversary blend. Again, I prefer stronger tasting coffee.

Good to see Starbucks is open to new ideas.

Lor

i love you frazzled Barista!

totally!

i came from a small slow starbucks store in northern cali and then transferred to a metropolitan Virginia city.. oh hell naw. i thought that everyone knew what starbucks is! but i guess i was totally wrong. and customers are so fuckin' high maintenance just like many of the people that talk shit and complain all time about starbucks!

i just love how customers complain, complain, and complain.. and still continue to return to the same ole starbucks location. go fuckin' write a comment card and never return! .. there's a licensed starbucks in a grocery store around the corner, have at it.

i try to be a very positive person, and in return.. i've experienced lesser stress in my life. i always try to make it a good experience for everyone that walks into the door, but when customers treat me and my fellow coworkers like shit, both parties aren't going to end up happy. so it's best to walk in with a positive attitude, and you'll get the same in return :)

~lor ♥

Javaccino

No, it's not Sumatra or Komodo, but it beats the HECK out of the Italian and Verona, which are both blacker than my mother-in-law's heart. It has a lot more class than Breakfast or House...I may wind up being a fan and won't have to order Americanos when the "black roasts" are up anymore.

I heartily agree, Morgan (not the part about your mother-in-law's heart, mind you, I am not qualified to judge that). I know what you mean.
Apart from my beloved Sumatra, and Sulawesi, what I really love in the morning is a medium roasted Latin American, such as my other beloved, Guatemala (black-no sugar), and Pike Place fits the bill for me. It has more character than house, which is a perfectly good coffee. Breakfast blend is much to light for me, and with Verona, etc, I have trouble getting past the taste of the roast to experience the nuances of the beans.

Due to our new (old school) methods it is also much fresher tasting than anything we have done recently.

newcastleguy

When I first tasted this coffee in our meeting before its introduction, I was thinking Starbucks finally gave into all the complaints about "burnt, overroasted and bitter" coffee. It didn't have the bite like a typical Latin American coffee and it didn't have the boldness of a Goldcoast. And of course a few days ago I read that sbux actually introduced this coffee as part of those complaints.

The coffee does seem to taste a little bland and has no real special characteristic. Kind of reminds me a little bit of Folgers, except using higher quality Arabica beans instead of Robusta. Interestingly enough I was asked to purchase Folgers for our test comparison during the meeting. Although there was a noticeable difference between the two, it was more of the quality than the flavor itself. Of course I wanted to use Peets as a comparison but of course my manager said no because she knew Peets offered better coffee (as they should since Starbucks is a following of Peets). Of all the relatively large coffee chains, Peets still brews the best cup of coffee in my opinion. Well at least now there is something for everyone; PPR for the "whimps" and a traditional brew for the more "knowledgable" coffee drinker.

pdxshifty

May c. That coffee you tasted last year was pike place blend, which is completely different from pike place roast. (We are the company that likes the confusing names).

Also anyone else find it weird that the company won't tell us what makes up the roast? It's a "proprietary blend" and that's all they will say. Odd to say the least.

Kyle Maxwell

I'm not quite enough of a connoisseur to detect flavor notes, but I'm enough of one to be able to sometimes distinguish regions and such. And Pike Place is okay with me; it's not as dark as what I brew at home, but it's fine for a midday break.

I've been getting a caffe misto for the last couple of days because I want my coffee to stay hot and not get lukewarm when I add some milk to it. I'm thinking I may request a bold tomorrow if I get another misto, or try the PPR black.

And FWIW, it seems to me that many of the folks complaining are baristas (former or current). I personally have no problem waiting three to five minutes for my coffee to brew; it sounds insane to even have to state that. I grab a pastry or something to read and hang out; if my schedule is cutting it so close that an extra minute or two will be a problem, then probably that's not a time to stop through for coffee anyway.

JW

I believe Starbucks made a good decision. Everyone that I know that has had Starbucks' drip coffee hated it. I don't care for it either, I have to but at least 50 packets of sugar in it to even drink it. With that said, I think more "normal" people will want to drink Pike Place Roast, that is if they ever go back to Starbucks again.

I really don't care if they serve flavored colored pee water (= PPR) to the people who don't like Starbucks.....But I just want my "Bold" in the afternoon. I know, I know I have been told "just ask", well I did today and what a joke. I asked for a french press of Sumatra. The barista acted all confused and told me to wait while she talked to someone in the back. Then there was confusion on how to charge for a cup of french pressed. Was this really worth the hassle. NO!!! When all I really want is a cup of "bold" in the afternoon. It really shouldn't be this hard.

I really, truly agree with this story 100%.

Melody

Howard Schultz is my hero despite the fact that Pike Place Roast is too light for me! I've been asking baristas to make me a french press of coffee when I go in if they don't have something bold on the brew. Most (not all) are extremely accomodating, and it's amazing how fast 4 minutes can go by.

I have yet to have a french press of Pike Place Roast, which may bring out entirely different flavors.

As to "Pike Place Special Reserve" (a different coffee available only at that first store on Pike Place), it kicks ass. I love it. It's a very deep and rich and smokey coffee.

Melody

Does anyone notice a difference in whether Pike Place Roast is bringing back the smell of coffee to the stores? Are you guys selling a lot of the PPR whole beans?

People thought they were getting screwed with the price of the coffee before, well now there are still paying the same price for inferior watered down "coffee" and getting screwed more. What a f*%$*ing joke. And the worst part is people are falling for paying almost $2.00 for a cup of "Folgers". And I really love the people who say "I had to put 20 packets of sugar in my drip so I could drink it" then why I ask did you go to Starbucks in the first place?

sfbuxmgr

Melody,
I'm sure the smell of coffee in the stores should start to increase with all the 5lb bags of Pike Place in the lobby. Yes, while they are all sealed, they have one-way valves that let the coffee breathe out the CO2. That's about a hundred or two pounds of coffee oozing smell in the lobby. I can't smell it anymore obviously because I spend 40+ hours there, but people have told me that it smells more like coffee in my store.
Plus all that grinding and scooping, and spoodling, and dumping coffee every 30 mins... there's no way that stores are not smelling MORE like coffee now.

Coffee User

I tasted the Pike Place Roast today and thought it was quite good. I think Howard Schultz is on the right track with this (and the other changes he's making), so much so that I plan to buy up some SBUX shares tomorrow.

salta

Re: pike peak
Does "new coke" ring a bell??

May C

Thanks for the clarification on the difference between the "roast" and "blend". No wonder I was confused.

Hey, did anyone hear anything about Starbucks offering donuts? Well, at least it seems like it in Canada. Check out this article from a 24 hours news station in Vancouver, Canada:

http://www.news1130.com/news/local/article.jsp?content=20080411_094528_6416

May C

Oops. Look like the url got cut off. Here's the tinyurl: http://tinyurl.com/4otwng

UPod

Sorry to be off topic, but I just had a cup of Blue Jamaican coffee for the first time ever today. WHAT A TREAT!!!

I actually tried the Pikes Place Roast on Tuesday and thought it was pretty darn good - not overpowering at all.

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