Starbucks Corp. is making changes to the way it grinds and brews coffee as it tries to win back customers amid economic weakness and increased competition.
Instead of grinding coffee only in the morning, baristas will grind beans each time a new pot is brewed. Timers will buzz to signal when it's time to make a new batch, according to internal Starbucks documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The changes are part of the Seattle-based company's effort to reinvigorate the "Starbucks experience" in the face of competition from less-expensive rivals such as McDonald's Corp. and 7-Eleven Inc. With Starbucks' changes, customers will be able to hear the whir of grinders and smell the aroma of fresh coffee all day.
The adjustments will begin to roll out next month, a company spokeswoman said. ...
Currently, baristas decide when to brew fresh batches "based on multiple signals ranging from demand (quantity), to expiration and timing," the new documents say, explaining that the revamped process "reduces this complexity by eliminating many of these signals."
Now, depending on how busy a store is at a particular time, baristas will use 24-, 12- or eight-minute "cadences" to brew coffee so that no variety runs out. And instead of dedicating one coffee brewer per variety, the new procedures require that containers be rotated as necessary through different varieties so customers don't have to wait for a certain type to brew.
Some baristas said the extra grinding and brewing might slow service and turn off customers with added noise.
But demonstrating to customers that coffee is ground and brewed on the spot could help Starbucks maintain its premium position, especially as rivals tout less-expensive alternatives.