Starbucks closes to learn how to make coffee
Americans will have to cope without blended Frappuccino and blueberry coffee cake for a few hours on Tuesday as Starbucks shuts its 7 100 company-owned stores for a nationwide barista training session.
Starbucks chairperson Howard Schultz has ordered the unprecedented three-hour afternoon closure as part of an effort to improve coffee quality and revive the chain’s flagging fortunes.
It has prompted frenzied action by competitors hoping to snatch Starbucks customers. Dunkin’ Donuts has declared Tuesday a cut-price coffee day with prices slashed to 99 cents so that “no coffee lover is denied a delicious espresso-based beverage”.
During the session, Starbucks’s baristas will get a “hands-on espresso training experience”. In a letter to staff, Schultz said: “Starbucks partners will have an opportunity to connect and deepen their passion for coffee with the ultimate goal of transforming the customer experience.”
Schultz, the architect of Starbucks’s growth during the 1990s, returned to hands-on management last month after shareholder unrest triggered the departure of chief executive Jim Donald.
The company’s shares dived 42% last year on signs that consumers were falling out of love with Starbucks. Investors were alarmed by figures showing a 1% fall in the average number of transactions per store.
In a raft of changes aimed at restoring momentum, Starbucks is cutting 600 jobs, introducing free wireless internet connection and axing hot breakfast sandwiches, which were criticised for interfering with the aroma of coffee.
Shultz says he wants to restore an “emotional connection” with customers. But the shutdown is being mocked by independent coffee stores that have long suffered under the shadow of Starbucks.
Coffee Klatch, a small Los Angeles outfit, said it will offer free coffee to all customers while its bigger rival goes dark.
“I’m not sure why it’s going to take them three hours to learn how to press a button,” said Coffee Klatch’s owner, Mike Perry, who described his own beverages as “expertly crafted” in contrast to the Starbucks machines.
Britain’s Starbucks outlets will not be affected by the closure.
The chain’s international stores are faring better than those in the United States. Phil Broad, UK managing director, said: “The business continues to perform well with five consecutive years of high single-digit growth in comparable sales.”—guardian.co.uk Â