The Economist has a new article on how Starbucks has “Not enough froth” and apparently one of the worst performers on the NASDAQ stock exchange for 2007. One of the more interesting quotes in the article relates to competition from other restaurant chains, most notably this one which I happen to frequent:
This year McDonald’s will help customers to wash down its burgers by installing coffee bars with “baristas” dedicated to turning out the sort of Italian-style coffees that brought Starbucks its success, in nearly 14,000 American restaurants.
It’s already in place in part here; I can order a latte at my local McDonalds although it’s the “from the automatic machine” sort and not the “barista lovingly handcrafts your coffee” sort. There was a true barista in the McD’s in Budapest, if I recall correctly.
But strangely that distinction between automatic machines and hand-crafted does not bother me in this instance, so I’m perplexed by the Economist’s insistence that the installation of semi-automated machines has contributed to the woes at Starbucks franchises. I guess I don’t look for “romance and theatre” at Starbucks, I look for coffee. And when I do go to Starbucks instead of McDonalds it’s for one reason and one reason only: the largest-sized coffee you can get in England (venti is 20 oz. hot, 24 oz. cold.). The McDonalds and the little italian chains around here serve up their “large” lattes in no larger than 16 oz. cups and more like 12 or 14 oz. in some cases. That is simply not enough coffee to make it through the morning.