Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spilling the Beans

Several of you said that you wanted to know what the scoop was at the Starbucks shareholders' meeting yesterday. You ask, I tell. These are the things I took away from the 1 hour audio version of it that we listened to last night online. These are all initiatives that will effect you, the customer.

1) There will be a new fresh roasted signature blend coffee debuting next month called Pike Place Roast. Pike Place in Seattle is the site of the first Starbucks store, and Howard Shultz still has a key to the place. The coffee will be brewed daily at all US locations, all day long. This is being done to provide the customer who has a daily ritual of getting a cup o' joe and just wants to know that the same roast will be there to start his/her day off just right. You may or may not know this, but we have, to this point, worked off a coffee calendar that rotates us through our various blends. Now we'll have just one other coffee and a decaf option on tap besides PPR.

2) A rewards program will be launched mid-April. I don't have all the specifics yet, but there will be rewards, such as:
a free tall drink of your choice with the purchase of a pound of whole beans
free modifiers (syrup and milk of your choice) when you purchase a latte,
free refills on brewed coffee and
free wireless internet access for 2 hours daily.
This is just phase 1, and was initiated in response to comments expressed on the surveys that customers took that said that they had to switch from an espresso drink to brewed coffee because their favorite drink had become too expensive.
I know this to be true, because we had a daily customer--James: double tall soy latte--who stopped coming in daily and gave up his drink for brewed coffee because it was just too expensive.

This rewards program should allow him to be able to get his favorite drink again for about the same price as his cup of coffee, because he won't have to pay for the soy, only the shots. It's a bit confusing, but I'm sure it will be worth it to have an active Starbucks card. 1 in 7 customers pay this way, and it's time to reward that loyalty.

3) New Mastrena espresso machines will be coming to 30% of the stores by year's end and to 75% of the stores by the end of 2009, and even though the process will still be automated, these machines will harken back to the days when baristas pulled shots by hand. The amount of customization will be greater and the length of the shot will increase again (we went from 13-17 sec. length when I started to 15-19 sec. length with the 3-hour retraining last month) to 18-23 sec. length and be timed by the machine. Plus, the machines will be half a foot shorter, allowing the barista to continue connecting with customers while they wait for their drinks.

4) The technology dept. launched a new website called This is an online community where customers can tell the company--48 experts from various parts of the corporate headquarters will moderate forums and chats--things they'd like to see Starbucks do. The online community will vote on these ideas, and those with the most votes will be acted upon. There's a separate site just for partners to provide similar feedback, since our experience is a bit different than the customer's. I think this is a really cool idea, and I think it's not just a promotional tool. I believe the company designed it because it's seeking to be responsive to its customers' ideas.

5) We increased our commitment to being a good steward of the earth by increasing our support of farmers who grow coffee responsibly. The goal is to have all our coffees bear the seal of being grown according to conservation standards.

6) Starbucks purchased a company that makes an $11,000 machine called the Clover. This machine makes 1 cup of coffee at a time, and recreates the flavor of french pressed coffee with high technology. These machines will be in select stores, and customers will be able to have a cup of their favorite blend brewed to their specifications anytime they want, and in less time than it takes to make a traditional french press.

If you'd like to read a full blown press release, follow this link. All this is being done to reinvest in the consumer's experience with the company that has defined coffee for Americans, so I hope you're happy about what you've just read and what you're hearing. It's all for you.


Alexandra said...

what can I say - I love starbucks!!! TFS!! Happy Easter! *STAMPIN HUGS* Alex

cdrikari said...

I stumbled across your posts while looking for something else, but I wanted to thank you for a concise, on-the-ground level view of the new directions Starbucks is going/looking at. I do most of my own espresso, but seeing where Starbucks is going is interesting and much more readable than press releases. Thanks again.