Howard Schultz of Starbucks recently asked his management colleagues if Starbucks is retaining the retail experience that made the company great in an internal February memo, “we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand.”
In his memo Howard described how the introduction of vacuum packed coffee removed the aroma of coffee from Starbucks stores, and how the introduction of more sophisticated espresso machines diminished the visual experience of brewing Starbucks coffee.
After thinking about Howard Schultz’s memo I was thinking that I don’t go to Starbucks because of the coffee, I mainly drink tea, and anything the company can do to get rid of those noisy espresso machines is a good thing for me because they ruin my retail experience and reason why I go to Starbucks stores, yes Starbucks means coffee to me, but more importantly Starbucks is a comfortable meeting place. Starbucks does not have much to sell to me besides some narrow choices of tea and a few pasties, though I would probably be comfortable paying a meeting charge to them. If in growing Starbucks the value of the company’s experience has changed for the majority of customers, then what was once important is no longer quite so important to the majority of customers or even the original customers. Maybe Starbucks customers are actually happy with the current retail experience? I think that’s the question Howard Schultz should first try to answer for himself and his company. If Starbucks did try to change anything for me the company should focus on making the store a better experience for meeting people. But I may be just a customer of one, so Starbucks might ask its customers to find out what they want, it may be the original Starbucks, or it may not.