It can’t have gone unnoticed that Starbucks are not only on every corner in pretty much every town and city but are popping up on motorway service stations, hotels and even trains! Now, I am a Starbucks lover, there, I’ve said it - even with their dodgy tax schemes. Ironically I don’t drink coffee. My tipple is a Grande Skinny Hot Chocolate, No Whipped, Extra Hot (just in case we’re meeting up in the near future!) and I have them regularly so I know what they should taste like. What I have established recently is that all is not what it may seem regarding the latest expansion. The Starbucks that have set up in the service stations don’t accept my Starbucks mobile app payment system. In fact they don’t accept the pre-paid cards either. What else is different? Well, the staff at these types of outposts just don’t have the same passion or enthusiasm for Starbucks. It’s as if they’ve taken the best ones out of the other shops and café’s at the service stations and plonked them in a Starbucks apron and told them to stand somewhere new.
My biggest frustration is not the service however, it’s that the drinks just aren’t consistent. Imagine my disappointment early one morning having left home super early to get down to Coventry before 8am. I’m already at Woodall Services by 6:15 and scamper in to the services hoping to get a quick hot chocolate to help me on my way. The queue is 5 people long and apparently only one person working. Decisions, decisions. Do I wait and potentially waste the time I have created by getting up early standing in the queue. Or do I forget it and head back to my car Starbuckless but back on the road and making progress. I wait. 15 minutes later I walk out of the services. The traffic noise seems to have noticeably increased – it’s even looking like the sun might be coming up. I’m frustrated but at least I have my prize. So sitting in my car I prepare to take my first sip. I had vaguely noticed the cup had seemed a bit light when carrying it back to the car but was rushing so didn’t check – you know how it is. I tipped the cup to drink, a little further, further still until it was pretty much horizontal. There was foam at the opening but it took a while for any actual hot chocolate to come out. It was, at best, half full. And the bit that I did have was, at best, luke warm. I was now on the road and there was no turning back but it was a bad start to the day.
I guess the question here is "Can Starbucks maintain consistency of brand, product and delivery when they are franchising out the operation to such diverse channels and losing control?" The ideal scenario in franchising is that you don’t lose the consistency of brand however I think it’s the lack of quality management in these outlets that is letting the side down. Whilst writing this I was sent this link about errant staff taking names for cups and then writing something rude on the cup instead. Humorous,yes, but not exactly what the Marketing Director had in mind when he/she implemented the ‘name on cup’ strategy. Let’s see how Starbucks handle these sticky issues. It would be a massive shame if you couldn’t rely on the consistency and quality of brand to deliver your favourite drink every time you choose Starbucks….