Has Starbucks Lost its Cool?

Starbucks discontinued breakfast sandwich.

Starbucks discontinued breakfast sandwich.

I went in today and noticed Starbucks has introduced new breakfast items like hot oatmeal and whole wheat buns. A few days ago, I was at another Starbucks that was still serving those breakfast sandwiches that make the store smell like a cheap diner rather than a joint for premium coffee. Something isn’t quite right at the house of mermaid. Too much expansion. Venturing away from their core product. Every place looking way too much like the other, which normally shouldn’t be a bad thing when trying to maintain brand consistency. Whatever it is, what used to work for me no longer does.

Maybe it’s because in Vancouver, we have an abundant choice of excellent coffee shops with loads of individuality and charm… something that appears to be missing at Starbucks. The once symbol for cool coffee and a great place to meet, is beginning to feel like a bad corporate hangover with a self-indulgent CEO at the helm who has lost his grip on the experience and setting. Or it may just be me. But, I find myself increasingly drawn to every coffee shop OTHER than Starbucks to grab a cup of joe or meet for business or catch up with a friend. Sure, when I’m travelling, I tend to look for a Starbucks because I know what to expect because I don’t know the local coffee scene and don’t have time to explore. And I’m fully aware that delivering that consistent product and experience is key to that statement, and what we all like to preach about when running a successful business. But, there is a fine line between consistency and cookie-cutter. I think the mermaid may have crossed over.


Filed under Branding, Business, Coffee, marketing, Small Business Marketing, Starbucks

25 responses to “Has Starbucks Lost its Cool?

  1. Being a fellow Canadian myself, I tend to choose Canadian corporations over American ones. For instance Second Cup over Starbucks.

    From one Canadian to another, did you notice Second Cup offering sandwiches as well?

    It is very interesting to note you mention and comment on Starbucks, but yet leave its main Canadian compeition out of the picture, espically since they started selling sandwiches not too long ago.

    Do you perhaps think that Second Cup did not cheapen their image by selling sandwiches or you simply did not even notice them selling food? (many people do not notice the food items, its fun to watch the shocked look on their face when they realize they do)

    The Tradeshow Mentor

  2. Thanks for your comment Tradeshow Mentor. To be perfectly honest, I don’t frequent Second Cup. The last time I went there was my last trip to Ottawa and that was a few years back, so I can’t really comment on their offerings. I live near The Drive which is packed with local coffee shops like Turks, Cafe Amici, JJ Beans, and Prado. All serve a brilliant cup of joe, have loads of character, and offer simple things like free wifi. Starbucks still doesn’t offer free wifi… go figure.

  3. Starbucks today is McDonald’s for coffee. They’ve totally lost the shreds of mojo they had left.

  4. James, funny you say that. McDonalds is offering a premium coffee in the US (maybe here now) at a lower price point to go directly after Starbucks. Saw billboards everywhere during my last trip to the States. and I’ve heard talk that Starbucks will be introducing a $2 coffee to fight back. If true, a terrible move by Starbucks.

  5. MiggySmallz

    I agree with you – somewhat. I find myself using starbucks for breakfast replacement. I don’t just get coffee there, but a bagel or pastry of some kind. And I definitely don’t want to make two stops. So I agree that they are trying to be too many things to too many people, but that works for me sometimes.

    Long term, it’s not good news for them. They need to keep in mind who their primary competitor is – Ronald has a mean right cross.

  6. Lol Migz. I know what your saying… the one-stop convenience aspect can make up for a loss in experience. Been there, done that and given in many times. I think they’re beginning to get too far away from what they really deliver and that is a place where people want to meet and socialize in a comfortable, charming setting over a great cup of coffee.

  7. oldmarketing

    Isn’t this post, like, 5 years past due?

    Send it back. It’s stale!

  8. Perhaps Oldmarketing… it took me 5 years to finally smell the coffee. Cheers.

  9. I was just discussing Starbucks today and how they had become cookie cutter. I think there is room for a rival that offers slightly less burnt coffee and free internet access.

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  11. Nicole Garrett

    I have a degree in journalism, but while going through school worked for SBUX for 3 years. I’ve just relocated to London, and needed a job upon arriving because the school I was lined up to teach at wasn’t going to start for a couple of months, so I turned to Starbucks again. I quit a week ago upon being told that either I take off my wedding ring or leave. Luckily for me, I could make the choice to go. It is not the company I remember from my college days. No one can be an individual. Everyone must look the same. Shame on Howard. How far the mighty have fallen! I think you’re dead on.

  12. Nicole, you’re kidding! Now, that’s just plain silly. Maybe someone was a little jealous of your ring? 😉

    Thanks for sharing your story. Cheers.

  13. Interesting article. I think Starbucks has gone down hill. If they offered half-way decent pastries and sandwiches I’d buy those a lot more often. I’ve also noticed lack in consistantcy across stores, especially in smaller towns.

    Howard Shulz, where are you now?!?!

    -Scott Million

  14. Starbucks has been my 2nd home for many years now as I generally end up there about 3-4 times a day. Well, used to. It’s now turned into once in the mornings.

    Here within the past month, they’ve started offering the $2 grande drink (bring your receipt back anytime before 2pm and receive your grande drink for $2). The few pennies saved is not worth keeping the receipt (and here, it’s literally a FEW pennies). Immediately following this promo, the oatmeal showed up. My first reaction when I noticed it one morning was, ‘what the…?!’ Sandwiches, fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries, oatmeal (still trying to figure this one out), younger and younger people greeting me in the mornings or just being flat out rude and somewhere in the mix – is coffee.

    I think StarBucks has lost it’s sight. The friendly, happy workers, are no more. The smell of coffee filling the building is no more. The socializing at the tables – rare.

    Very few businesses can get away with being the one-st0p shop. Do what you love and do it well. Focus on what you do well and do it better. StarBucks, I don’t believe will be in that group no matter how hard they try.

    All I can say is that I hope another coffee rival shows up soon so I can move away from McD…err StarBucks.

  15. Starbucks was the hip thing of the late 90s. But now they are on more than every corner like McDonalds. I’m sure Micky D’s was really cool at once but eventually it just became the back up for a cheap shit meal.

    Starbucks has no charm anymore, if it ever did. I think they reported a loss of some sort recently?

    People used to go to there for the unique atmosphere and to be the “cool” person to serf on Wifi. But now that you can go to any Micky D’s for WiFi, whats orginal about being Mr. Cool anymore?

    Starbucks is losing its image as a cool hangout place, to being just another McDonalds souless chain–and maybe it is. I don’t find people at the store particalary friendly–at least in Chicago.

    Now how much do you get paid for this blog, lol?

    If Starbucks turns its act around and manages to make all of their coffee joints “cool”-you know who to thank. ME!

  16. stephchan86

    i can’t say I love starbucks but I like it and I’m happy with what they sell and also glad they come up with new stuff. It’s always good to try new things right? 🙂

  17. It’s weird, I just moved from Miami to Minneapolis.

    Starbucks has a virtual monopoly in Miami because there are virtually no indie coffee shops or competitor chains – whereas in Minneapolis, Starbucks are relatively rare compared to Caribou, Dunn Bros, and dozens of indie coffee shops.

    Most of my friends and I prefer the other chains (Caribou and Dunn Bros) to Starbucks.

    Caribou offers more beverage options and free wifi, whereas the Dunn Bros are huge and have local art showings.

    It’s like comparing Chipotle/Qdoba with Taco Bell.

  18. Kylistah and JR… couldn’t agree with you more.

    Stephchan86… no reason you can’t enjoy Starbucks and I’m happy that you do. I used to really enjoy it too. Just noticing it isn’t doing it for me much these days.

    Dennisjansen… I think that’s just it. When you live in cities where there is so much choice, it’s so easy to find better alternatives from local chains to indie shops. There is a great coffee shop here called Cafe Artigiano that has recently expanded to several stores, but has done a great job of maintaining its charm and individuality.

  19. Luckily I live near some amazing local coffee shops that can whip up a mean mocha w/ the right amount of espresso. In my opinion, Starbucks can’t deliver. Although, their pasteries are tasty 🙂
    Interesting Marketing note: Starbucks is offering free coffee to teachers every Monday morning for the month of Sept.

  20. Suki… free coffee for teachers? Now, that I like! Enjoy.

  21. dan tanna

    I’ve puzzled over why people don’t like the breakfast sandwiches. They’re the only bright light at Starbucks. The real loser—and EVERYONE is afraid of this—is the coffee. It’s never been good and people are tired of dark roasts that hide the poor quality beans. This is a real problem: the store’s fundamental item fails.

    If they can solve that—replacing the dark roasts with a lighter roast, even at huge expense—they might stem the losses. But I think Starbucks never got it, did they? It was always the place to go to pee in the city, never anything special, was it?

  22. I know what you mean Organic milk is scheduled to come off the Starbucks menu Feb. 26. The company has told employees: “If a customer requests organic milk, let them know that our milk is now rBGH-free.” Earlier this month, Starbucks completed the switch to serving milk only from cows that were not given the artificial growth hormone.

  23. AnonyW

    Working for Starbucks (changed the name to keep me safe!), I can say I agree. I hate how far we’re branching out. I hate that we have protein shakes with bananas (I HATE the flies they bring). I hate that we have Egg McMuffins and oatmeal (what’s next, Starbucks Dry Cereal?).

    We’re starting a new line of products at the end of the month, also with a made-up name, also not even remotely coffee-shop-pastry-like (I won’t say what… but it looks like a turnover with breakfast ingredients).

    I can say that I do enjoy a good number of our coffee blends, but that others are somewhat revolting (especially Anniversary and Gazebo). I can say I enjoy the atmosphere, but I wish that each store did have its own individual quirk.

    The sad part is – the consumer feeds the growth. People are obsessed with Starbucks! We have a large number of people who come in 7-18 times a week, and I’m not exaggerating. They drink 1-3 Starbucks drinks EVERY DAY! People will also sit in line for 10 minutes or more when they’re late for work instead of buying their own coffee brewer and beans, too (which I find ridiculous).

    Why do I work here? The benefits are good, my coworkers are fun, and they work with my school schedule. Don’t think I’m not constantly looking for another job that can compare.


  24. AnonyW

    Oh – and I think the people that come in upwards of seven times a week are ridiculous. Just clarifying.


  25. Sorry for delay in comment, but right now I got to see so good point, Starbucks Coffee Company is the leading retailer, roaster and brand of specialty coffee in the world. I know one of the time Starbucks that it’s one of the six guiding principles of our mission statement. When I tend to visit with this company, They what might have pointed out is “our commitment to coffee farmers and their communities results in a great cup of coffee for you.” The Starbucks slam session. If you want to blow the foam off the top of your decaf life. Let ‘er rip. Stand up against the spread of global capitalism.

    You know who you are, have been putting up heaps of posts on the site that talk about how wonderful Starbucks is, I delete ’em. Why? Because I like to think of people self-righteously typing their little hearts out thinking that they are going to take a stand against some bunch of anti-Starbucks hooligans and with one click of my mouse their work disappears.

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