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October 14, 2008

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Melody-Click on my name & vote if you're commited to Espresso Excellence

Webmaster-Jim: Anyway you can move some of the other conversation from the open thread into this thread.

Of course you know I HUGELY disappointed in this move. It's like as if the choices that Howard makes are the right ones, and then someone must whisper in his ear: But Howard, it's not about the coffee, it's only about money, and then he changes his mind.

Goodbye "theater and romance." And what happens now? Wasted cups galore with expired shots, watery shots, poorly executed shots ...

Actually there's a whole another aspect of this: Talk about waste. One day it's water in dipper wells (though that didn't get me worked up) but now, IF baristas are really observe all the same quality issues that were part of Espresso Excellence Training, aren't there going to be many more paper cups going into landfills?

Wasteful.

Please vote on my MSI thread.

Lindsey

ugh, if someone in my store tells me to stop using shot glasses for lattes, I'm walking out the door. There's no way I'm stopping.

fun n foamy

I love how we lost $4 million in sales when we closed for espresso excellence and God knows how much in labor and training materials just to take it all back a few months later. I doubt it's about the labor, it's more about now knowing which direction is which. They took the wrong turn at Alburquerque.

Darleen

According to the action item, Starbucks labor scheduling system added 5 seconds labor for each drink to use the shot glasses. Apparently that five seconds per drink is just too expensive for the company and they will now withdraw the five seconds labor and allow baristas to drop shots directly into the cup.


From what I'm getting, this is saying that baristas CAN pour shots into cups, not MUST pour shots into cups. I know some of you think 5 seconds of labor is not much, but divide that by how many stores and hours and you'll see why they are trying to save any $ they can. Which they should be. For all of the partners who do not agree with the suggestion then continue to use your shot glasses. I can see both sides of the coin on this one.

ShiftyinNV

Where on earth did they get five seconds? Who takes that long?

There are times I prefer to pour into the cup, namely with Americanos and also with mocha/white mocha (to melt it by swirling it around with the shots).

But generally speaking, I like to get a look at the shots.

With the Mastrena, you can see how long it's taking to pour them, so if you pay attention you actually can see if something's really wrong (any barista with a brain knows if it's taking 25 seconds it's not going to be good). So if the barista is paying attention, they'll still know- but how many people will be, particularly when it gets busy?

coffeewench

I just hope they don't enforce it to the point that we aren't allowed to use the shot glasses if we prefer.

Personally I'm faster and more efficient on bar with the glass than I was when I went straight into the cup.

Plus, what are we supposed to do about drinks that only get a single shot?

Starbucks never should have wasted the time and resources with "espresso excellence training" if they weren't serious about it.

Newflash to Howard, the amount of time "saved" by pouring directly into cups is a matter of a second or two (if that, because some are actually faster using the glasses)

We aren't loosing money due to a matter of seconds, but we ARE loosing credibility by being inconsistent and hypocritical. (and yes, a customer can pick up on these things even if they don't ever visit sites of this nature)

It makes us look unprofessional and this loss of credibility is going to hurt Starbucks' bottom line far more than a "slow" in service of a fraction of a second.

Patrick

Melody,

I'm a customer, have never worked at Starbucks. I don't think my problem is going to be paper cups going into landfills. I think my problem is going to be crappy shots going into paper cups and handed to me with a smile, and a "How's your morning going?"

Barista Joe

Nope. No. No sir. No way, not happening. Pulling shots into glasses is the one bit of class this company still has; throwing those shots into that paper cup w/out the visual inspection, we should just call ourselves McBucks at this point.

-J

Barista Joe

The problem is not with the shots into the cup. You're right- a good shot of espresso will taste good without a shot glass. However, I can't tell you how many times I've seen the shots be too watery/black, even when the timer's running good. Usually, it's because the hopper's empty and I just didn't notice. But the shot glasses help you stay on top of things.

-J

Paige

This is typical. It seems as though over the past year, Starbucks has just been grasping at straws for business decisions.

They go one direction, and six months later, backtrack and go the other direction.

I'm a huge Starbucks fan, but as far as this decision goes, I'm concerned.

I'm no coffee snob, but I do get pretty angry when I pay several dollars for a subpar cup of joe [or specialty cup of joe]. And that's been happening more frequently here lately.

Now it's just going to be a big guessing game while they make my drink.

Customers will notice that quality is no longer a part of the mission.

lisa latte

I have always thought pouring shots directly into the cup leaves the drink with a sweeter, more full taste. Much of the crema stays behind in a shot glass.

Pat Nerr

I'm sure the news that they are shipping out pre-steamed milk to the stores will be around the next bend...

Howie can suck it

beantheredonethat

This is just one more example of Howard and corporate's total mismanagement of the company. One day it is this new policy; then the next day, that policy is changed or reversed. And you really think the financial problems and partner layoffs are the result of the bad economy? Don't think so. Try incompetence of management to do any thing right. Period.

I heart Clover

Whats next, the return of dishsoap foam, and 2 liter pitchers???

Alex

Whoops... can we say "PR Fiasco"? I suspect SBUX's Media people are gonna have some phones ringing

Andy

In some instances it might save a second, in others it might save much more than 5 seconds.

Let's say you have a quad grande vanilla latte. While you're steaming milk you notice the next drink is a tall Java Chip Frappucino. You set up the shots for the vanilla latte to pull directly into it and while they're pulling you have time to start the JCF, setup for the 3rd drink in the queue, and, if you're good, finish the JCF (drizzle, lid, call out) at the exact time the 4 shots have pulled into the vanilla latte.

All of this assumes the shots are of good quality, which means glancing at the hopper on the Verismos every few minutes and calibrating shots every hour.

If I remember correctly, Uncle Howie made the shot glass decision and other ones unilaterally and sent it directly to the stores. He did not use the official procedures. I rinse the shot glasses each time, that's at least three seconds there. Dirty shot glasses is like a dirty butt and who wants to lick that chocolate starfish.

BAYAREABUX

There would have been better ways to go about being the ultimate advocates of "NO CREMA WASTE" -- such as promoting for here drinks and changing the standard to always pull directly into porcelain and to always time shots that go into porcelain to ensure quality.

When you pull into paper, you not only waste cups, but guess what? Paper cups ABSORB CREMA! How terrible!! How can we tolerate this loss of crema?? If its unacceptable for shot glasses to waste crema, isn't it equally unacceptable to put espresso in anything paper? If we're really all about the purity of the crema?

Why couldn't they have just done what they did with Pike Place -- yank the extra labor because "you fools should have the hang of it by now, right?" Don't make this about espresso purity, because with 150,000 baristas, everyone knows that the transparency of shot glasses is far better for drink quality in the endgame than two drops of crema. I think that's plain as day.

And please let us use big pitchers again!

BAYAREABUX

Andy,
actually the correct way to make a triple or quad is to pull two shots, add milk, and then add one or two more shots. i'm pretty sure that's in the brm. otherwise you're just pulling fresh shots on top of expired shots and handing out crap. we used to hand out a lot of crap, but that had gotten better since February...

heathbar

I've never bothered to figure this out before -- but will venti cups even fit in the Mastrena? It seems to me that they definitely wouldn't, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Also, I think the concern raised over the single/triple shot issue is pretty important. What are we supposed to do, pull a double and yank the cup out halfway through the pull? I understand the need to cut labor company-wide, but this is just not the way to do it. "Optional" or not, this is a practice I definitely won't be engaging in.

asmboston

At my store, although I won't prohibit baristas from pouring shots directly into the cups, I won't necessarily encourage it. By pouring the shots into shot glasses, you keep your shots more intact and enhance the flavor of the shot. Also, you can monitor your shots better (and keep track of our 10-second rule) by pulling shots directly into shot glasses. I'm an espresso aficionado and this might be a bad move on Starbucks' part. If we want to reduce time at the handoff, it would make more sense to let us use large steaming pitchers. During periods of extremely high volume at the bar, our small pitchers can simply just not hold up. Thinking about stores that consistently have large espresso rushes like New Year's Eve or even just the typical Friday and Saturday nights in the colder months with Hot Chocolate (now even with Signature Hot Chocolate), allowing our supervising partners to make a call when to use and when not to use large pitchers would definitely improve our speed of service and cut our labor. Just my thoughts.

Brandon

For a triple, just put the cup under one of the spouts for the last shot...

lawyerista

"Viva la shot glass!!" is what I wrote on today's DCR last night.

It seems like the company is catering to the "lowest common denominator" stores now. Some stores don't rinse their shot glasses enough? Some stores aren't efficient enough to handle a rush and still use shot glasses? Well then, by all means, instead of holding them to higher standards, let us accommodate their inadequacy by lowering the standards for everyone else.

I'm tired of it. Push us to be better, to serve a better product, don't make it easier to serve up mediocrity.

I know I have become MUCH more conscious of shot quality since the return to pulling shots in the glasses.

It just makes me sad.

lawyerista

I meant to add:

What's next? 10 second pulls for the shots?

Argentius

A few words cannot express my disappointment with this decision. This is a sad, sad excuse for ruining, as Barista Joe calls "The last bit of class that Starbucks has."

What a waste.

When Howard took back over the helm, there was this big transformation agenda put forth, a back-to-basics coffee shop feel that would reconnect the romance and quality of good espresso with our customers.

What a farce.

What we have gotten, at most stores, is a smaller selection of coffees, additional product to distract and disrupt from the smell and experience of coffee and espresso, more focus on food and "et cetera" items, and less concern with our core purpose.

I already generally avoided espresso drinks at most SBUX's -- the odds that a Verisimo was properly timed was low at best, and every day I'd watch some impressively bad shots go into drinks.

Pouring directly into cups fosters a "punch the button and forget about it" philosophy of drink-making.

It's not all out to lunch, of course -- customer surveys reliably say that speed is by far the most important characteristic SBUX can provide, and I'm sure that espresso quality matters less in most people's cups of hot milk and sugar with some coffee added, but please.

Don't encourage them.


Personally, I'm super excited to be going back. I've seen baristas pour black shots into a drink from a shot glass - if people aren't going to follow espresso excellence, shot glasses do nothing but waste time.

Now I can make an Iced Venti Americano and two grande lattes AND a coffee frappucino at the same time again! Whoopie!

A few comments...

Yes, venti cups fit under the mastrena spout.

We were told that we had to pour directly into the cups, and that not to do so would result in a write-up. Our DM was not open to any discussion or dissent regarding the new policy.

And finally, as a barista with almost 15 years of experience, I know that I can make drinks more quickly and with a superior quality by using the shot glasses. I'll put my drinks up against ones poured directly into the dup for speed and taste any day of the week.

Anyone who thinks this move was about anything other than justifying reducing the amount of allotted labor for each store (thus reducing payroll and saving the company money that would otherwise be going into store partners' pockets) needs to re-read the action memo.

Just wait...we'll be resteaming milk again by Christmas. (in big pitchers no doubt!) Thus making drinks crappy three time over.

How much further do you plan on backsliding, Howie?

PhillyBarista

I told this to my partners and the next words out of their mouths were "And what next, we can just toss the pitches up there and forget about them too?"

I wish the company would pick a direction and sick to it. How about the fact that they will no longer be auto-shipping us 1lbs of coffee. That lasted what, a month?

This move, while not a huge deal in and of itself, will allow the media to stip of us any shred of credibility we had left. I can hear it from our customers now "Whats next, insta-latte machines?"

Thinking Barista

Try this as an experiment: make two tall americano's side by side. One with the shots pulled directly into the cup, the next with the shots pulled into shot glasses. There's quite a surprising difference in not only the sweetness but also the texture of the drink due to the crema... However with lattes and cappuccino's I can't tell a difference in taste... I don't think the average customer can either.

My decision is to only pull straight into the cup if I am making an americano or doppio. Everything else I make is being visually inspected by going through the shot glasses... I like the visual presentation and theater. And yes, I bar better and have more confidence in what I am making when I see exactly what's going into the drink...

So, since we're getting those 5 seconds back... does this mean more labor? If even its only a few hours?

Patrick

The shot glasses bring a kind of mystique and class to Starbucks. I remember looking at the baristas in the old days and marveling at how they make the beverages. They measured out the precise amount of espresso, tamped it down, steamed milk, drew the shots, examined for quality, and then completed the beverage. I must admit, putting a cup under a spout and pressing a button takes a lot away from the "Starbucks Experience" for me. It's just another step toward ABM's, "automated barista machines."...for an extra dollar, it'll make converstation with you! I don't like where this slippery slope is headed.

truth

Like I've said, go back and listen to the Howie's annual meeting presentation and then look at all the ways since then that he's done just the opposite.

SPORK

I don't think it's that big of a deal, I monitor my shots through the stream, the shotglasses are really just there to make you think things are going right. If a barista can't monitor their shots from the stream and length, than they weren't able to check through the shotglass. It'll just improve your speed of service and most likely produce a better shot seeing as how we are not pouring your shots into a glass that probably had some dead shot left in it.

waltie

Damn. Overreact much, people?!

Let's take some of these points one by one, to make it that much easier to completely debunk them:

1.) Pulling shots into shot classes adds to the allure/mystique, class of making a drink.

My reply: In your opinion! Stop positing a personal opinion as some kind of fact. I don't drink lattes for the mystique or because I think it gives me class. I know I have class. I drink lattes because they taste good. And, frankly, pulling shots into the cups directly is the best way to preserve the entire shot, so it all gets in there. Now THAT'S classy.

2.) We're going to hand out more bad shots in drinks!

My reply: No, we're not. Here's the think about Starbucks (and about coffee shops -- and all retail stores in general!): some people want to do a good job and take pride in their work, some do not. If you're the kind of person who'd give out a crummy drink without a shot glass, you're the kind of person who'd give out a crummy drink WITH a shot glass. Bad workers are bad workers. Using or not using shot glasses won't change that.

3.) But if they don't use glasses, we can't monitor if our baristas are using expired/bad shots.

My reply: Why are you hiring people that need to be micromanaged and supervised like that? If you honestly have partners who don't pay attention to their shots, it's time to hire new partners. Shot glasses are the least of your problems.

4.) This makes us more like fast food!

My reply: In that it will make us faster, yes. In that it will make our drinks worse? No. I think it will actually make our drinks BETTER. As has been said, this is the best way to get the full shot into the drink. Also, I'd much rather a barista pull the shot directly into a cup than into a dirty shot glass that has been sitting under their machine all day.

This isn't the end of the world, people. Stop whining and complaining and think about how it can be a positive for the company, not a negative. If you all brought this kind of negative energy to my store, I'd send you home.

Usedtocare

I stopped caring months ago. Working at Starbucks is much easier when you realize that we ARE fast-food. I'll add pickles and ketchup to the drinks if you tell me to. Just gimme my paycheck and leave me alone.

waltie

Oh yeah, and I almost forgot the silliest complaint of all:

"What was the point of espresso excellence?"

You must've gone to a different espresso excellence meeting than I did, because mine spent maybe 4 seconds discussing pulling shots into glasses, if at all. Most was about the quality of shots, timing them, steaming milk, and other things about how to make great drinks.

Two hours of just talking about pulling shots into glasses? Far from it.

This decision is no way, shape, or form contradicts what we learned in espresso excellence, and if you honestly think it does, you're being severely close-minded and pessimistic.

And on a final note, I'd love to remind people on this board about the prelaunch paranoia about the skinny lattes platform. Remember how so many people complained and predicted it would be the end of Starbucks as we know it?

Ha ha ha. What idiots. The skinny platform was a resounding success. I'm not saying this will be the same. All I'm saying, is I'm just saying.

Pat Nerr

I knew I liked you Waltie

Usedtocare

Waltie still cares! It's kinda cute. Let's see how long it takes for the system to beat him down.

As a barista, I know that, especially in the morning when volume is high, I like having the reminder to fill the hopper with beans. This comes to me in the form of 'dirty-looking water shots' in place of where the usual dark, velvety shots should be. Who knows how many poor made drinks are going to be made in this manner.

Seriously...5 seconds? If Howard is really all about the excellence, this shouldn't even be an issue.

Des

On an interesting yet related note, our SM has decided that since we don't have to bother with the one thing we learned in espresso excellence, we won't worry about the other thing either. Back to clocking in coffee at sixty minutes.

I have lost my ability to care now.

Lindsey

Waltie, I'm 100% where you are! I did a dance for joy when I read the action item. Even once we changed to shot glasses, I always poured the shots straight into my cup for my personal partner beverages.

As far as the argument goes that the paper cup absorbs the crema . . . the shot is going into the paper cup in the end anyways. I'd rather have the cup absorb it than have the shot glass AND the cup absorb it . . .

My blistered fingertips are grateful for this decision!

BAYAREABUX

The more people you hire at minimum wage, the less you have who pay attention to their shots. Unfortunately, most of the people who cared about espresso and coffee quality are no longer with the company. We're left with a mix of burnt beans and people just getting the check, thank you much, and would you like an expired shot with that?

Go into a random store and stand at the bar for five minutes. It was damn ugly before espresso excellence and it'll be damn ugly again now.

Pulling consistently good shots into cups actually requires more care and vigilence than using the glasses. Some people here boast that they can deliver that. Do you realize that you represent perhaps .01% of all baristas who send out drinks on a daily basis?

Koolaid Stained

Rock on, Waltie! This is the exact sentiment ALL SMs should adopt-send your lack-luster, incompetent, piss-poor attitude having baristas PACKING! If you have any dignity for yourself and what you've chosen to do, grow a pair and ensure your team is 100% top-notch, open to close! 'Progressive-discipline' be damned!

BAYAREABUX

The Starbucks card with the two shotglasses of espresso on it absolutely must be retired.

It was called "Coffee as Art."

Rest in peace.

Me

Hi Waltie, since you mention it, the Skinny platform wasn't the end, but it wasn't a strike of genius either. At my store we have maybe 10 people a week ordering a skinny drink. So no, it still doesn't make sence to create a new name for their drink which they were able to order in another way.
And another problem we are having here in this forum is, you will only find people who really care about starbucks as a coffeehouse (and some trolls, of course). Unfortunately, these people are by far not enough to keep starbucks up and running.
So we have the herds of customers not giving anything about quality, but all about speed of service.
These people are also the ones satisfying wall street, because they are the majority. That's why wall street wants us to cater to their needs, not to the coffee geeks.

This is all unsatisfying for the coffee lover, but the reality. That's why they come to a place like this to vent, so they don't blow into a customers face.

The hardest part here is the PR desaster some people already mentioned. First we were educating our customers about how important the announced changes are for the quality of their drink. Now we are reversing that within months. This is putting starbucks into a bad light.

It almost seems like we have no clue... wait a second, we don't, we just pretend as everyone else does, so all is fine...

Argentius

If you are lucky to live in a reasonably urban area -- especially places like the PacNW here! -- it's likely that there are some independent coffee shops with some skilled baristas and fresh, locally roasted beans that can spin milk with the best of 'em.

The funny thing is, they usually don't cost any more than SBUX, sell far fewer drinks, and take much longer with each one. A different type of experience probably far more like SBUX circa 1981...

Melody-Click on my name & vote if you're commited to Espresso Excellence

To anyone out there ready to accept, with open arms, shots directly into paper cups:

If you're a barista, you learned at Espresso Excellence that you're supposed to use shot glasses. You adopted that policy. You understood the reasons why. You could even explain the need for things like being able to catch watery shots - not sending them out the door - and using shots up before they go dark. What would've happened if you had, in flagrant disregard of the E.E. policy, simply NOT used shot glasses, and still tried to always have shots go into a paper cup ... Wouldn't your SM have come unglued?

Now, 6 months later, you're told "you can now disregard that part of E.E. training where we told you, in clear terms, not to pull shots straight into paper cups."

How does that make any sense whatsoever?

And there is no way that any normal Starbucks customer can taste some minute amount of missing crema in a Grande Hazelnut Latte!

If Starbucks had the kind of business where must customers got a latte (a simple latte - not some weird sugar concoction) or a solo or a doppio in a pre-heated ceramic cup, I *might* think differently about this: But that's an experience far removed from Starbucks.

Starbucks earned a reputation over the past few years of drinks with 'watery shots'. Why? partly because the Verisimo does produces a more watery shot than a La Mazorcco. But the other part of the equation is that there will be customers who get that shot when the bean hopper is very low, and it might take a couple of customers before the barista even notices.

At least in the Starbucks world, where paper cups, syrups, and steamed milk are the main thing going out the door, this will represent a greater difficulty in quality control.

It might even take some time before the consequences catch up with Starbucks.

And modernly, it seems as though Starbucks places no value on theater and romance anymore. There IS an added benefit of being able to see your drink being crafted that it is hard to put a tangible number on.

But frankly, it just makes Starbucks credibility look like zero. It reminds me of cross-examination of a recanting witness on the witness stand: "Were you lieing then or now?"

Please excuse grammar and typos. I don't have time to double check this at all.

And by the way, glass holds heat way better than paper. Those little shot glasses heat up with use. The paper cups absorb crema, and are very poor at keeping a beverage nice and hot.

waltie

"Waltie still cares! It's kinda cute. Let's see how long it takes for the system to beat him down."

After four years, yes, I'm still qualified to do my job.

"This comes to me in the form of 'dirty-looking water shots' in place of where the usual dark, velvety shots should be. Who knows how many poor made drinks are going to be made in this manner."

This will be a moot point once the Mastrenas become more common. The Bean Hopper is right in your face and completely see-thru.

"On an interesting yet related note, our SM has decided that since we don't have to bother with the one thing we learned in espresso excellence, we won't worry about the other thing either. Back to clocking in coffee at sixty minutes."

Your manager is a moron.

"Unfortunately, most of the people who cared about espresso and coffee quality are no longer with the company. We're left with a mix of burnt beans and people just getting the check, thank you much, and would you like an expired shot with that?"

From where I'm standing, YOU'RE the bitter one. Pot, meet Kettle. You're both black.

"Hi Waltie, since you mention it, the Skinny platform wasn't the end, but it wasn't a strike of genius either. At my store we have maybe 10 people a week ordering a skinny drink. So no, it still doesn't make sence to create a new name for their drink which they were able to order in another way."

We do 100s of skinny lattes every day. It was a huge hit. It made tremendous sense to simplify the ordering and ringing process.

"The hardest part here is the PR desaster some people already mentioned. First we were educating our customers about how important the announced changes are for the quality of their drink. Now we are reversing that within months. This is putting starbucks into a bad light."

I never once told a customer we had to pour shots into glasses. And I'm never going to tell customers we are now pulling into cups. Most customers won't care or notice. I have better things to talk about. PR disaster? Just because it's mentioned on THIS board, doesn't mean it's going to be mentioned anywhere else.

"It almost seems like we have no clue... wait a second, we don't, we just pretend as everyone else does, so all is fine..."

Of course we have a clue. The company looked at the empirical data it has accrued since pulling into glasses became a standard and made a sound business decision to make the change. You may not agree with the change, but don't say there was no thought put into it.

waltie

And another thought:

I wonder how much of this had to do with the current "controversy" (for lack of a better word) about how Starbucks wastes water. Frankly, it's a valid point and a valid business decision. Not having to rinse the shots every few minutes in every store across the world will certainly save a lot of water.

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