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I blame Starbucks....(Layer Cake in Irvine) [moved from L.A. board]

I'm not mad at Layer Cake, really I'm not. I can't say I'm totally happy with the way they handled the situation, but maybe I could have handled it differently, as well.

I blame Charbucks for this....and the fact that I've became an espresso snob, since discovering what espresso drinks should taste like when done well (as opposed to what's become the Starbucks norm, over the past five to ten or so years).

Here's the deal - so I go to Layer Cake in Irvine today, for a nice slice of one of their generally very good cakes and an espresso drink. I end up ordering a slice of the white cake with white chocolate filling inside and green tea buttercream frosting outside. It was good.

Also I ordered a double espresso macchiato. In the classical parlance, this is an espresso "marked" with just a bit of steamed milk or, sometimes, foam.

What I got was a 12-oz paper cup filled to the brim with a dense, stiff foam. Somewhere down there, I could tell, was a good amount of liquid which told me that there was not only the 2 to 2 1/2 ounces of espresso that should constitute a double shot, but also a good deal of milk.

Once I took the lid off and discovered this, I stared at it awhile, trying to decide if I could live with it or not. After a few bites of the cake (waiting until the counter person was not busy with other customers), I decided no, I should explain what I had in mind versus what I received. I wasn't rude (I don't think), but I didn't say "I'm sorry, but this isn't what I had in mind" either - it probably would have gone smoother if I had. Instead, I said in a reasonable voice to the young lady at the counter helping me that this isn't a macchiato.

She made a bit of a face and said "well this is how we make macchiatos here". Would you like an espresso instead ?" When I answered yes, I would, she started to ring it up as another order. When I said that the fact that they were going to charge this was not making me very happy, she made more of a face and called the manager and went over to her to explain the situation. The manager made a face and said something (probably "give it to him"), and the counter person swept away the original drink and dramatically poured it down the sink. It got quiet real fast.

So while the young lady was doing the espresso (now in a smaller paper cup), the manager came up to me and she said that what they gave me was a macchiato. I explained that no, actually what I got was probably more like a latte and she said well, yes maybe but this is how Starbucks makes their macchatos. To which I replied well that's not macchiato either....well we pretty much left it there.

It was basically a draw, I got my double espresso (which actually wasn't bad), but nobody was particularly happy. I was surprised about the poor customer service in a way (sure, they replaced the drink but it was all done very grudgingly ) -- so who really won here ? Will I be back soon ? Probably not...unfortunately. I don't go to a place to pick a fight - though that's what happened in a way.

I guess the lesson I take away is, that it's really tough to get both a nice slice of cake and a great cup of coffee. And especially, you need to be really specific when ordering a drink that Starbucks has monkeyed around with, because it's now assumed that the Starbucks way is the correct way - because that's what most people now expect.

I've worked retail and a bit of food service, and I do understand how hard it is, and especially in these tough times. But because of that I also understand the value of a happy customer experience versus an unhappy one. My old boss (a wise man) used to say "A happy customer will tell one or two of his friends, but an unhappy customer will tell ten of his friends".

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  1. Well that's an interesting experience.
    I would say, in this case, a call to the corporate office may be in order.
    The only reason, in the last few years, I've gone into Starbucks was to pick up one of their maple scones. I love them.
    About 3 months ago they decided to stop making them. I asked a person, who said he was the manager, what had happened to them. He told me they quit outsourcing them and they (Starbucks) was now making their own.
    Being the person I am, and not willing to take his word as the gospel, I called the corporate office.
    A very nice, congenial and accomodating lady in customer service told me that what the manager said was an untruth and the maple scone would be back in the stores in the fall as it appears to be a seasonal item. She told me the 'outsourcing' response was totally false and the manager really didn't know what he was talking about.
    I suggest you call corporate and ask them about the macchiato....perhaps they'll have a different answer for you :).

    1. ok, well... I've been in this situation, where I've ordered a macchiato and got something quite different.

      sadly, it is accepted that a macchiato can both be milk marked with espresso, or espresso marked with foam... and maybe the person taking your order should ask which you mean.

      I tend to go by price... if the macchiato is closer in price to an espresso than it is to a latte, I will assume that it is an espresso w/ foam.

      1. Oh dear. Apparently - if Wikipedia is to be believed in this instance - what you asked for or at least wanted was a "caffe macchiato," an espresso marked with milk. What you got may have been a valid "latte macchiato," a cup of milk marked with espresso:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caff%C3%...

        Now, what the drink was actually was called on their menu, I don't know. And I don't think they handled it well. It sounded like you ordered correctly - how could anyone interpret a double-espresso macchiato as meaning double the milk and even less of the espresso?

        Anyone who's going to venture to serve an espresso drink should have a working knowledge of what goes in them and the generally appropriate amounts, no matter where they are. And the service was just not good, period.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cinnamon

          I want to confirm the Wikipeda entry Cinnamon has referenced (at least, what has been referenced here).

          It sounds like they served you a latte macchiato rather than the caffee macchiato you wanted. This is not an issue of fault but a lack of clarity since macchiato only refers to the marking or spotting, but not to the liquid doing said spotting.

          A double espresso macchiato sounds like you were trying to clarify, though.

        2. Sorry, you lost me when you mentioned green tea frosting. What exactly did you expect? This isn't Italy, you know.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tgmm

            Maybe you are just trying to be funny, but as a pastry chef this comment rubs me the wrong way. How do creative baking and staying true to established espresso traditions not mix?

            I had to post because I just had a seminar with a French pastry chef from Brittany who demo'd a chocolate mousse with green tea creme brulee and raspberry meringue. He said green tea is super trendy as an ingredient right now in France. OK, still not Italy, but just to say that Europeans can be open to new ingredients while still using traditional techniques - the cake was very French style, just with a new flavor. Serious bakers like to play with ingredients as much as serious chefs, and I would expect nothing less than great espresso from a respectable, high-end pastry shop. I may end up disappointed, but that is what I would expect!

          2. They served the espresso in a paper cup?