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.
I was thinking about this the other day while waiting in line at Starbucks. Why am I here? If someone were to ask me what’s your favorite coffee shop, Starbucks would be much further down the list. I would rattle off Prado and Turks on The Drive, or JJ Beans on Main and 14th. Or, Bonjourno (I think that’s the name) on the corner of Pender and Richards. All serve a mean americano.
I don’t mind a grande long americano from Starbucks, but it’s by far not my favorite. Just a side note, it seems that you can only order it long in Vancouver. Whenever I’m in a US Starbucks, the baristas look at me weird, and repeat back, “Grande americano, right?” – “Right.”
But I still find myself back in a Starbucks most days. And there, standing in line I wondered what compels me to keep coming back when I know there is better coffee being served just around the corner. Then the warm, Latin music playing in the background started to sooth, while the yellow icing gracing a slice of the lemon raspberry loaf tempted me from behind the clear glass sitting at eye level where I just can’t ignore it’s wayward glances. And for a brief moment, I peak at the gift items on the shelves stacked to the right of me in arm’s way while I pick up a hint of java beans in the air. Then it’s my turn. The friendly Starbucks employee behind the counter says, “Grande long americano?” before I can even get the words out. “And a lemon raspberry loaf, please,” I quickly add. I come here way too much. As he takes my order, another employee retrieves my slice of delight from behind the glass and places it gently in a thin paper bag that feels almost like parchment wrapping paper. My gift for the day. My cup of java gets called, I pick it up and exchange pleasantries, then head to the station where I grab a shiny, stainless steel container labeled “half and half”. While I stir it in until I reach just the right shade of brown, I can’t help but notice all the lively conversations taking place at the small trendy tables and comfy couches nearby. I close the lid and head out. Now I feel ready to start my day. Why do I still go to Starbucks? Because the overall experience is sometimes worth it. The coffee isn’t better. Far from it. But it’s consistent – environment, taste, service time. And they’re everywhere which makes them the easy choice when heading out of town. I would like to think I would always choose the better product, but I guess I’m a sucker for a great experience.