Slowing Down to Increase Profits?

In the face of economic pressures and customer complaints about coffee quality, Starbucks has revised its drink-making guidelines for baristas: “Starbucks baristas are being told to stop making multiple drinks at the same time and focus instead on no more than two drinks at a time-starting a second one while finishing the first,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Other changes: baristas are to steam milk for each drink (rather than for several drinks at a time), rinse pitchers after each use, stay at the espresso bar and use only one espresso machine at a time. Starbucks says the changes will improve quality and efficiency, but baristas are skeptical. “While I’m blending a frappuccino, it doesn’t make sense to stand there and wait for the blender to finish running, because I could be making an iced tea at the same time,” says Tyler Swain, a barista in Omaha. Readers, do you think the changes will be good for business? [%comments]

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  1. Thanks for lifting the lid on this. says:

    Customers could save time by ordering extra-super-grande sized drinks and sharing them with others in line.

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  2. Preston says:

    I was pleased to see this news item, because I believe that Starbucks is an influential organization and I agree strongly with the underlying concept: focussing on fewer tasks at one time improves quality and, as a result, customer service.

    Multitasking–to me–encourages automatonic behavior. This story should be contrasted against the quality issues for which bank foreclosure departments have recently received criticism. If they had slowed down and taken one thing at a time, I believe that they could have worked through the backlog of foreclosures more efficiently–not to mention equitably.

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  3. Ian Kemmish says:

    Doubtless the placebo effect has a part to play. Which is of course why there’s been a press release so that all their customers know about the changes.

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  4. Tristan says:

    I don’t see how slowing down is supposed to improve the quality of the drinks, there just isn’t much impact that the server has on what’s in the cup. In the same way that sitting there while a frappacino blends doesn’t help quality, there’s nothing they can do about the espresso either, they just hit a button and wait while the machine does all the work.

    Better steamed milk might actually be an improvement though since most Starbucks drinks are basically just big cups of steamed milk with some coffee and/or syrup in them. But didn’t all Starbucks shut down for 4 hours a year or two ago to do “retraining” where they showe everyone how to steam milk properly? It seems to me that if that didn’t work then they should invest in some sort of milk steaming machine, it probably wouldn’t be as good as a trained barista, but it would at least be consistent, and that seems like a good goal for SB at this point.

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  5. megan says:

    I think Starbucks is gross, regardless. Maybe if they added “clean machines” to that list so their drinks didn’t taste like burnt, dirty socks. (And I am from Washington, willing to spend $5 on a decent drink).

    From a business perspective, I don’t think it is a great move. Starbucks will never be a quaint coffee shop where you feel like a drink is hand-crafted. It is a place of efficiency, like a McDonald’s drive-through, and if people have to start waiting for over-priced, mediocre coffee they will take their business to a place with the same wait time, same prices and great coffee.

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  6. Rob says:

    A big problem we have today is considering quality service as the great exception, rather than the required rule for receiving our business.

    I’m not a fan of chain restaurants/coffee shops because of their focus on quantity as opposed to quality, but I might considering checking in at the local Starbucks again.

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  7. Emmi says:

    Yeah, right. Customers are waiting for coffee, nervously chewing off their nails at the prospect of showing up late for work. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled that the baristas now stand their twittling their thumbs at the frapp machine.

    I make my coffee at home but I like Starbucks travel mugs. The baristas know how to fill a travel mug properly (leave room at the top so the lid can screw on properly and my work outfit won’t be soaking wet with coffee, thanks very much).

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