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May 15, 2007 07:48 AM

what IS the deal with starbucks?[moved from UK/Ireland]

the coffee is actively vile. and the chain is sprouting up like mushrooms all over the uk. what on earth are people doing buying this crud?

the next time someone talks to me about the 'revolution in british tastes' etc, i'm going to point them to a curry house and starbucks. italy is a skip away and we have to go to seattle to get this rubbish?

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  1. i know exactly what you mean. i live in the states, and they are just popping up everywhere. the coffee is ok at best, but i do understand why some people would frequent them religiously. nutrition information is posted online, so for those who are really trying to watch what they consume it is helpful. and starbucks is very good to its employees, so a lot of people feel good going there. i prefer to go to local businesses or places that serve la columbe, but that's just my take on why its so popular.

    4 Replies
    1. re: jayleah

      I'm in Oregon, probably the second most saturated Starbucks market (Seattle up North is where the first opened in 1971); They are becoming a monopoly by catering to the Lowest Common Denominator (the sheep!) that don't know good coffee (frappuccino? what??) and buying up others like Torrefazione (YUM) and Coffee People (eh...).

      I prefer to give my business to local (STUMPTOWN!!) and those who know good coffee.

      1. re: spabettie

        It looks like someone needs to stick up for Seattle in here! ;) I have to agree with spabettie about Starbucks, even here in Seattle, catering to the LCD's of the city. Stumptown is good (although, I can't leave Boyd's out of the mix either... I know, I know... every time I say that I get "You like Boyd's?! Why?" from anyone living in OR!) and Seattle has many of our own roasters that I frequent. Lightouse Roasters is one in particular. Yummy! :) You know, I cannot put down Starbuck's attempts at community involvement and other awarenesses, whatever the motivation may be. I just don't care for the taste of their coffee.

        1. re: spabettie

          Stumptown is espresso nirvana!! I'm staying at the Ace Hotel in June specifically because there's a Stumptown in the building. You guys in Portland are so lucky not to have a labour shortage :-)

          The saddest thing about Starbucks is that its customers will never, ever experience a proper cappuccino with proper microfoam in a proper 5-oz size. With latte art or a simple proper monk's hood. There is nothing more sumptuous, and they can get it at Stumptown (or Albina Press, Vivace, Artigiano, Novo, Phil+Sebastian, Caffe Art Java, Bulldog, Intelligentsia- every major city and many not-so-major ones have at least one decent third-wave coffeehouse) FOR THE SAME PRICE as Starbucks. Starbucks cappos have RUINED horrible meringue-style overstretched disgusting foam- they are abominations.

          1. re: John Manzo

            BRAVO !!

            ...and have fun at the Ace Hotel (I've heard great things about it),
            and enjoy your Stumptown!!

      2. they are a very powerful brand marketer and that is enough to convince people that they must be good. the fact that there stores are everywhere makes people think 'if they're this common, then tons of people must love them, so i will too'. people tend to feel pressured to join the herd and starbucks has more than taken advantage of that. in england they are also filling an unsaturated market. i loved in london for a while and spent days trying to find good coffee. the upside of never having found it (even at bar italia, and don't even get me started on the lack of iced coffee, amerianisme, yes i know) is that i became a huge fan of tea and now rarely drink coffee. personally, i positively detest starbucks and the coffee and thankfully in philadelphia, i have three delicious independent coffee shops within a 15 minute walk of my house (more like 8 total, but these three are stellar). current starbucks count has got to be at 8 as well.

        i will say one thing in starbucks' defense though, they certainly take care of their employees. a friend of mine was in a horrible car accident when she was an employee. they paid for her first year of medical bills under and most of the next few (she is now paralyzed for life). because of how well they treated her, i buy one cup of coffee there a year in 'thanks'. maybe two if i go on a road trip.

        1. Starbucks is basically a low over-head, high profit-margin business. They can also adapt to almost any size space, including small spaces which few other retail enterprises are interested in. Their strategy is scatter outlets so that whatever market they may have won't have to go very far to find them. You can see the reductio ad absurdum of this strategy in places like Shanghai, where their market is a handful of expats, and the 20 million locals have no interest in them, yet they seem to be popping up on every corner (65 outlets the last time I counted) because it costs so little to implement them.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Gary Soup

            As a business owner in the same industry as Starbucks, I am no Starbucks defender by any stretch, but some of what I'm seeing here is simply the worst kind of spin:

            "high margin business" - hardly. Starbucks PRE-tax margins are in the 11% range - and that's bumped up because of non-coffee-related revenues, while McDonald's (to pick another ubiquitous chain) pre-tax margins averaged over 19% last year.

            "it costs so little to implement them" - Starbucks generally pays between $500K-$650K per store for pre-opening buildout. Not exactly chump change for any food-related business and probably about 3x or more of what the typical indie would pay for buildout.

            If you want to say SBUX drink quality sucks, then let's leave it at that, but please don't bring finances into it unless the facts are researched, as that broad brush ends up painting everyone else in the industry undeservedly or not.

            1. re: Panini Guy

     someone who used to manage a high-end delicatessen
              here in PDX, all I can say is NICELY SAID. I absolutely agree.

              1. re: Panini Guy

                Panini Guy, whenever I read your posts I'm delighted! Thank you.

            2. I have only tried the coffee one time, and I agree that it was awful. I live in the Boston area, and they are everywhere here, too. The one cup I did have ( and I ordered simply a cup of black coffee) tasted burnt. Never did go back. I have a local neighborhood store that serves better coffee- and that is where I stop on my way to work.
              I will agree with the other posters about how they treat their employees- my friends son works for them, and was able to take a years sabattical and travel around the world. Job was there when he got back, and they actually encouraged the adventure. Gotta love that, at least.

              1 Reply
              1. re: macca

                the way they treat employees must have changed a great deal, then. When I worked for them 8 years ago, I signed up for the 20 hours per week required to qualify for health insurance, only to consistently be scheduled at 19.5 or 19.75 hours a week.

                All to bring the store in under budget. All to get the manager an annual bonus.

                When I became ill and needed a doctor's mandated three weeks off to recuperate, I was asked to quit and when I wanted to come back to work, I had to ask to be rehired. Losing any benefits that I had accrued since I left.

                I consider them in the same league as any other sales/market driven corporation. they're in the same league as WalMart and McDonalds, as far as I'm concerned, and I know that every time I end up stopping at one because all the places I used to go are gone now, replaced with a Starbucks.

              2. i would much prefer coffee at a starbucks than any homegrown in the uk . i sometimes wonder if the brits might have the wimpiest palates in the world. i enjoy my coffee roasty; it's called flavor.

                what's obnoxious is the eurolefties' endless and fashionable droning about how chains are threatening their way of life. columbus coffee, a homegrown chain in paris, is quickly dying away. how can that be?!? why have not the same fates occured with starbux and mickey d's in england? shoot, even starbux are thriving in paris and that ain't all tourist traffic.

                4 Replies
                1. re: manon gropius

                  I'm often tempted to hit a Starbucks in Shanghai for a coffee fix once and I do occasionally succumb, because the local stuff is awful (it's often three-in-one instant). However, McDonalds serves the same purpose; their coffee is as good as Starbucks house coffee, IMHO, and they are far more welcome in China, judging from the clientele..

                  1. re: Gary Soup

                    3-in-1? Like the coffee, sugar and dairy substitute all in one powder?

                    1. re: julesrules

                      Yeah, that's pretty standard throughout a lot of SE Asia. (Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan).

                      1. re: julesrules

                        3-in-1 (Nescafe, sugar, and dairy sub) is common in Taiwan.