Feb 26, 2008

The Re-Education Of Bob Barista

So Starbucks announced today that they'd be shutting down all their stores for three hours today so that they can "re-educate" their baristas in the "art of espresso" and otherwise get their mojo back.

It's a clever move for Starbucks, sure to generate a whole lot of press and it shows that they are committed to improving their product and service in a way that rings a lot truer and more authentic than any ad campaign ever could.

As if to ensure that the event gets even more press, rival Dunkin' Donuts is promoting 99 cent drinks today, the synergy of the two events should prove too good for most editors to pass up.

There's also this quote from Schultz:
We are passionate about our coffee. And we will revisit our standards of quality that are the foundation for the trust that our customers have in our coffee and in all of us.
And while some may question the wisdom of putting your shortcomings on display, I think it's the perfect strategy for a brand like Starbucks, a brand consumers view as very focused on product and experience. The "re-education" seems authentic to them, whereas if say Dunkin' Donuts had done it, it would have seemed forced.


Anonymous said...

I'm such a sucker. I'll be going in tomorrow just to see the difference.

Anonymous said...

just like doing road work during rush hour...

if they were actually committed to improving the offerings and generating really favorable press, they might have the staff stay after hours and pay them for the time and stretch it out over 2 days.

i'm not sure you need and hour spent learning how to wipe down the steam nozzle correctly.

going to be a great 3 hours for Dunkin', et al.

Alan Wolk said...

@LD: I think that for the people who are Starbucks fans (and their number is legion) this 3 hour re-education just reinforces the notion of how much better Starbucks coffee is and allows them to justify paying $4 for a latte.

Anonymous said...

I think that this is a great idea, just for the PR buzz. A company that shuts down nationwide for three hours for training simply must be of a higher standard.

Doing it this way, through an "experience" if you will, accomplishes the communication of that message much better than an ad campaign could.

Well done Starbucks.

Anonymous said...

This will/has garnered press for sure. I can't speak to this objectively as I'm just not a fan of Starbucks and I think they've put out customers enough that they should take the hit and pay their employees overtime to get it right.

But they do in fact have a fan base that is legion and I think they will see it as a 'commitment to customers.'

To me? It's a chain, not a 3rd place and, well, I just don't get 'hanging at Starbucks'. Just feels so forced and cliche. Like I said at my place, I go into a chain to get the heck out as soon as possible. But I'm in the minority and I do give 'em props for all they've accomplished.

Anonymous said...

Starbuck's coffee was starting to SUCK monkeyass. You would get different quality coffee/latte's depending on the actual location.

Starbucks HAD to do something because people were pissed off and going to the local cafe to get their lattes for $1.85 rather then $2.05 (yes I made the prices up). Which was being served by a nice person and not some annoying "barrista".

Anonymous said...

still not sure what hey accomplished...other than a great opportunity for jason Jones on the Daily Show to rip 'em a new one.

is the coffee better today than yesterday? doubtful, don't know we'll ever know. is it not just a a rest area on 8th Ave? do they still burn the house blend by keeping the heat on the container for 3 hours? will the numbers improve?

these and other mind-numbing questions will never be / can never be answered.

a publicity stunt by any other name is a guy in the parking lot in a chicken suit handing restaurant menus.

to jane's point, not sure they've sifted the monkeyass out of the grinds with this one...

Alan Wolk said...

@LD: Check out CK's response. While she's no fan of Starbucks either, she recognizes that they have a very large hardcore fan base (that's why they're a Prom King Brand™) and that's who will think closing down for 3 hours is pure genius.

(And yes, to your point, I can't tell you how many times I've said a silent prayer of thanks for Starbucks clean, plentiful public-ish toilets.)

Anonymous said...

The brand loyalists will always be there for the most part I think regardless of stunts. (Perhaps instead a loyalty plan would work better for them.)

More than a PR move though, does this now set them up to meet unrealistic expectations in the eyes of coffee nation? “Oh, you’re going to be perfect? Well, I was in Starbucks today and it took forever to get...” Really, what brand is perfect? I accept there will be hiccups at times.

Another factor here to maybe consider: was it that Starbucks started to suck, or more a case that competitors worked harder at stealing their thunder? (Caribou, etc. I’d lump Panera in there to a degree but their model was based originally on Au Bon Pain.)

I’d also qualify that by saying I’m only a light SB drinker, so I can’t say my experience has been like dearjanesample’s.

(However, having traveled from NH to TX hitting every SB for three weeks straight this past summer, service usually seemed very good for the group of SB fanatics I was with.)