Starbucks Coffee has become the standard by which all coffee houses measure themselves. In fact, it is difficult to travel anywhere in the United States and not run into a Starbucks. Starbucks is the largest coffee house chain in the world and has made their brand name synonymous with quality and efficiency.
On Tuesday, April 8, Starbucks will be giving away an 8 oz. cup of their new coffee, Pike Place Roast, named after the Seattle company’s original location. The company is billing the event as a taste test and hopes that the fresh-brewed new blend will help drive customer sales. Company spokespeople say that Pike Place Roast will be ground and freshly brewed on site with a holding time of only 30 minutes. The company is also marketing the new brew in a specially designed cup that is reminiscent of Starbucks’ original logo and design.
This is no doubt a good marketing scheme and well help drive sales for a time, but is that all that it is? Are the Starbucks people trying to tell everyone, including their customers, that their coffee isn’t freshly brewed? Hardly, but you have to wonder at the simplicity of the sales pitch. Fresh-brewed coffee that harkens back to the days of yore, when times were simpler and a cup of coffee was a way to relax and enjoy a couple minutes of down time.
The company insists that it isn’t a gimmick, that they’re testing their new product. For free? Remember a few weeks back when the Starbucks announced they were shutting down every Starbucks in existence for three hours to properly train their employees to make better coffee? They couldn’t have done that outside of regular business hours? No, because of the ubiquitousness of Starbucks coffee houses, shutting them down during normal business hours was an event. Relating it to customer service made it over-the-top gimmicky.
Offering free coffee is not so much a gimmick as it is a way of beating the competition. Eight ounces is nothing. Starbucks knows that if they can get people into their coffee houses for the free offering, those same people will more likely as not buy more coffee, for convenience sake. It makes since. And if these people normally buy their coffee elsewhere, so much the better for Starbucks. And if they win a few converts…
There are Starbucks coffee houses all over Atlanta. You can’t drive more than a couple miles in any one direction without running into one (or two) of them. But there are also several other coffee houses in the region. There are a few Caribou coffee houses. And there are the Joe Muggs coffee areas in the local Books-a-Millions. But there are quite a few independent coffee houses in Atlanta and they all seem to do pretty good business. This writer is not a fan of Starbucks coffee, preferring either the Joe Muggs or the Caribou coffees.
There is this particular mall in the eastern suburbs of Atlanta where the coffee houses that have set up camp there have not fared well. I have visited all three coffee house incarnations since living in Atlanta. The coffee remains of good quality, service is usually prompt and professional. But the businesses have not lasted. This writer believes this is probably due to rent paid the mall, the overhead driving the businesses to seek another location to set up shop or go out of business altogether.
When I first moved to Atlanta a little over two years ago, there were only a couple of Caribou coffee houses in Atlanta. Now, there are more than almost a dozen. One is fairly near and I visit it often. I visit the Joe Muggs north of me more often, because it’s closer, located in a bookstore, and my teenagers like to cruise the mall. There are at least a dozen Starbucks coffee houses within the same driving distance, including two less than one mile from my house, but I pass them by. My wife does not. She’s part of the Starbucks world.
But Starbucks doesn’t seem to have a complete lock on the market, although they do seem to be appearing in grocery stores lately. And besides the one coffee shop in the mall that keeps changing ownerhip and names, they do not seem to be having too adverse an effect on competition. But, then, Tuesday’s “taste test” might change all of that. At least, that is probably what the Starbucks company executives are hoping…
Dow Jones Newswires, “UPDATE: Starbucks Pushes New Brew,” CNNMoney.com