Just coffee. Black. Period.

Well, I’m not the only one who gets upset at Starbucks when people order complicated drinks that require mechanization to make. Wall Street is upset, too. Frappuccinos depress market:

Management blamed the 4% same-store sales gain for July — which was less than Wall Street had anticipated — on customers requesting made-to-order cold drinks during morning rush hours, thus slowing service and sales. . . .

Management insisted late Wednesday that while it hadn’t anticipated the demand for cold drinks, the resulting service “bottleneck” was quickly fixable and shouldn’t hurt future results. . . .

Hot weather may have contributed to the demand for icy drinks, but management said it viewed the problem as an internal one and wouldn’t blame on outside factors.

  • The answer is easy enough to see: raise the prices on cold drinks. Wall St won’t complain.

  • Mark

    I think you’re right on that Steve, and take the extra cash generated to hire an extra person to pre-prep the icy drinks during heat waves to upgrade the speed factor and you’ve got a real win-win.

    That said, if Starbucks depended on me, they’d have gone out of business years ago. I’ve never been in one, but did stay at a Sheraton back in the 90s that not only stocked the room with their stuff for the mini-coffeemaker, but served it exclusively in their restaurants too. I had to go out and find a diner for a real cup of coffee and never stayed in that Sheraton again.

  • This sounds like the product of the market research dep’t, which if you all remember, produced New Coke. Starbucks’ sales are down. Many people are losing the feeling that they need the cachet of a Starbucks as opposed to downright coffee, possibly. Also possible that consumers are losing buying power , especially after they have filled the car with that skyrocketing gas. Also possible that with debt increasing faster than income, consumers are having to reign in on spending. Starbucks is easy to cut out. So – mechanization is a possible answer, but only one of many, Jeff.

  • BHK

    I love how people think they are so “cool” and “different” for resisting the starbucks movement. Despite you’re avoiding them, Mark, they’ve managed to expand to 11,000 stores. How does it feel to not matter all that much?

  • BobK

    I simply don’t like Starbucks coffee at all.

    I wandered into a Starbucks in Manhattan on a business a while ago, before there they dotted the landscape in the mid-west. I was unfamiliar with the menu of morning beverages.

    I ask for “Coffee black”. They say “What Kind?”. My reply, groggily is “Coffee Coffee!”

    It matters not that it’s a good business, I don’t care for the product, simple as that.

  • miami

    Sales are not down, they are up. Try reading for a change. They were up 4%.

  • Miami. I didn’t say that sales are down. They were clearly not as far up as the market expected. Read again yourself, please.

  • Lou

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked out of a Starbucks b/c some jackass was ordering his grande decaf tall vanilla soy caramel latte w/whipped cream.

    Throw the frappuccino’s on top of that and it keeps me out.

  • Jeff, while you get upset, I feel uncomfortable asking for black coffee at Starbucks. They make me feel like a Depression-era hobo asking for ketchup and hot water to make my own soup.

    More interesting than the sales gain would be the margin trend. I bet Starbucks profits are increasing faster than sales as shoppers deviate from simple joe.

    “The consumer doesn’t want a cup of plain black coffee,” says John Culver, vice president and general manager for foodservice at Seattle-based Starbucks Corp., operator of 8,569 units nationwide. “They want a 2% vanilla latte extra hot. What we’re seeing is the consumer demanding more differentiation or specialization of their drinks.”

  • Michael

    IMHO, the real problem for Starbucks is their loss of focus. They now are expanding into: breakfast, lunch (sanwiches, and maybe soup), water, tea, compex cold beverages, cds, books, plus all the gadgets that line their shelves. There have been several posted comments–not on this site–recently about disarry in Starbucks coolers, etc. The staff can’t keep up with all this new product any better than the customer.
    This is a coffee company, and their base wants coffee, not the flavor–or latest concept–of the month.

  • Ed

    StarBucks is so sllloooowwww. You cannot buy anything without getting 3 questions, no matter how fluent in StarBucky dialect and specific you are.

    Hot or cold? Would you like bold or decaf? Would you like some room for cream? Just give me the darn coffee and let me outta here! How about some DEFAULT choices? An exercise in tedium is what StarBucks is all about. I don’t want to be handled, I want my coffee!

  • Phil

    I used to stop at Starbucks each morning for a grande cup of black coffee. One route to work (here in Silicon Valley) takes me past 3 Starbucks on the way to work (a 20 minute drive along expressways — not freeways, but with stoplights). A different route takes me past a different 4 (it used to be 3, but a fourth opened up about a month ago).

    I stopped going to Starbucks. I’m making my black coffee at home — sometimes drip into a 16 oz travel mug (that can be microwaved); sometimes a french press. I’m using beans I purchased in Costa Rica, and brought back with me (I filled a standard sized suitcase that you put in an overhead bin).

    The reason I stopped going to Starbucks was 3-fold: First, their prices got a bit high. Second, I found myself buying a pastry even though I shouldn’t (I’m a bit overweight).

    The Third, and primary reason: I find myself very irritated when housewives are in line in front of me — they are clearly there to enjoy the Starbucks’ Experience & Ambiance, while I want to get in & out as fast as possible. I work for a living; they do not. They come to meet up with other housewives… they sometimes have preschool age children in tow… and they take too long ordering. The Barista asks them what they want, and they sometimes do not know! They say, “… hmmm, let me see…” It is as frustrating as being in slow moving traffic while you are in a hurry to get to a meeting and you are stuck behind some soccer mom, chatting on her cellphone, on the way to get her hair done, oblivious to the fact that there are people behind her who want to go at least at the speed limit.

    For me, Starbucks could improve by having two lines: one for people who work, and another for people who do not.

  • Mark

    BHK, I don’t think I’m cool for avoiding Starbucks, I make coffee at home in the morning so never had any cause to go into one or anywhere else. My first taste was in that Sheraton and I simply didn’t like it a bit, neither the blend in the room nor the different blend in the hotel dining room.

    It may be true that they have some blends that I might like, but it’s doubtful. But so what, I’m happy they’ve expanded so rapidly and are generally doing quite well — it’s no skin off my coffee beans.

  • veronica

    Did someone seriously just suggest that Starbucks raise their prices?? Their prices are high to begin with because of supply and demand. If they lose, maybe they’ll lower their prices and I’m sure that they will see a growth in sales.

  • Jeff

    As a former fast food exec. I can tell you that additional items no matter how easy they are to make will slow service. This foray into food to sustain sales growth will backfire. My God, they can’t even keep bananas in stock for the frappuccino. But if you are in it as an investment ride out the bumps, their unit growth will mask all the other evils.

  • Imethisguy

    I have been ‘comped’ a few times at SBUX because of a long wait. Once, as per Phil, I was behind two very chatty ladies, who had had several minutes standing in line to decide what they wanted, but only started to think about it when the clerk interrupted their conversation with ‘what would you like?’ (The elder of the two asked for a hamburger.) When it came to my turn, (a dark roast, medium size, to go) the clerk (who must have seen the smoke coming out of my ears) said “Thanks for your patience, this one’s on us.”