Monday, May 30, 2005

Why Starbucks Will Win

There is a part of my moral fibre that tells me --- no, make that screams to me --- that their business model is wrong, and I must not patronize them. There are so many reasons never to go to Starbucks...But there are two things that they manage to get right, that so few other coffee shops get right. I'd like to discuss them here:

1) Customer Satisfaction
No matter what happens, they give you what you want. The last two coffee shops I went to, Crazy Mocha Coffee and Caribou Coffee in the South Side Works, managed to fail on so many levels. NEITHER shop managed to get my order right. Both asked if I wanted whipped cream with my mocha, and I declined in both circumstances, but they both put a huge pile on top. If the beverage tasted good, I could even live with that. My drink from Crazy Mocha, however, was lukewarm, and bordered on the undrinkable. How on earth do they expect to compete with a tight well-oiled Starbucks down the street?
Even the creme-de-la-creme of Pittsburgh's independent coffee shops have to pull their heads out of the sand. I went to La Prima Espresso a week or two ago. La Prima lives by their Saturday morning rush hours, and I went on a slow Wednesday, and we were the only people in the shop. My friend and I stood at the counter for 5 minutes, as the single "barista" chatted on the phone. The "barista" continued her conversation with her friend, even after seeing us waiting there to order. I have a revolutionary idea for La Prima: When you have a customer in your store, TAKE THEIR ORDER.

2) Employee Satisfaction
I believe the problems I list above are intricately intertwined with this problem --- Starbucks almost always seems to manage to treat their employees with some basic level of respect, paying them fairly well, offering benefits, and all that jazz. At all the independent coffee shops in the area, however, all the employees complain about:
a) Poor wages
b) No benefits
c) Long, and/or irregular work hours
d) Bossy micromanagers and owners

What makes it so difficult for independent coffee shops to get Customer and Employee Satisfaction working for them? Is it tighter profit margins? Is it ignorance? Is it that they simply don't care?

Well, this is interesting. I did a blog search for barista espresso and found your site. When I get some time I'll come back and find out where barista espresso appears and how it relates - if it even does. Take care - nice work.
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