A well known high street branded coffee chain has this week done some pretty remarkable things.
Firstly, it's doubled the coffee in it's small latte.
Whoopie-do. A double in a 12oz is standard and they've been ripping us off for years. Although it does add a lot more Fairtrade coffee sales into the mix, which is as silvered as linings get.
Next they've started asking for your name when you order.
This is brilliantly hilarious, as they still disregard the name and call you "sir" when they hand you your drink. What it does is negate the hard work and genuine connections forged by their minority of good baristas who get it. It reduces them all to the same level of service - but isn't that what Starbucks does best? Bean to cup machines obliterated the value of their talented baristas long ago and ensured that their best coffee would be no better than average. If it's about creating a global standard of friendliness it achieves that, albeit in a comprehensively artificial fashion.
Next, they "promised" by means of a big poster signed by all their staff, that only perfect espresso would make it into your coffee.
Well I kind of hoped that was already the case (although not borne out by experience - see my last blog.) I also don't believe that it's true. I'm sure that the same guys who don't know coffee and don't care will still drop me a 9 second shot and expect me to be thankful for it.
Lastly, they gave away lattes until midday on Wednesday.
This resulted in huge queues outside their stores, a likely decimation of their competitors sales that morning, and quite probably some big uplift in sales to come.
It also resulted in a massive social media eruption. Your Facebook wall was inevitably going to feature a correlation of your friends who had got themselves a free coffee, which FB would helpfully group together for you.
Twitter too saw #freestarbucks trending.
So it's all good news for the green-aproned behemoth and another death knell for the indies right?
Also trending was #independetstastebetter and the likes of Laynes Espresso and Cafe2U Edinburgh reported g sales from die hard customers.
Like it or not Starbucks exerts massive influence on the public perception of the coffee industry. More so than their big boy competitors like Costa and Nero and more so than events like the UKBC and BSA awards.
By making so much fuss about their spring promotion (believe it or not, that's really all this amounts to) what they have managed to do is get people talking about coffee. They are further normalising the idea of your daily latte as a mining routine, and they're getting more and more Muggles into the Hogwarts of hand-crafted coffee.
That, for them, and also for the wider industry can only be a good thing. The job of the indies now must be to show these newborns how deep the rabbit hole goes.
And if they stayed open late enough where I'm sitting tonight, I might be sipping from a cup marked "drink me" rather than one marked "Joel" in a poor mis-spelling of my extraordinarily simple name.
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