Freshness and quality are two ingredients that seldom can be substituted for profit and success. The four go hand in hand as companies grow and prosper.
Last week while in a San Francisco Starbucks, I asked one of the baristas, whose name will remain anonymous, how the new Gluten-free tasted.
“Awful”, was her immediate reply. “I’ve tried them all and they suck. The snacks infiltrated Starbucks just after Christmas in an attempt to shore up their afternoon day part. It is also a way for the chain to jump on the Gluten free bandwagon.
“You’re kidding, right”, she asked. “We heat them in the oven. They are pre-grilled. There’s no grill here.”
Who was the chef that came up with the idea of a pre-grilled Panini sandwich? Did he work for an airline before they stopped serving food? Was he late taking his kids to school and in his haste left a ham and cheese sandwich in its assigned lunch bag on the driveway. And as he rolled over it, did tire treads imprinted the bread, branding it with lines that roughly resemble a wider gapped Panini grill imprint than most found in Italy. Viola. Oops, I meanPerfetto. A perfect Panini. Except, of course it was grilled days before it will ever be served.
Italians must be flicking their chins with the fingers of their right hand. A pre grilled Panini in the stores that made it mandatory to speak Italian when ordering coffee? It’s sacrilegious. Hit men have been summoned for lesser acts of disrespect.
Individual creativity quickly erodes any culinary concept. Many corporations straddle this hurdle regularly as management expands and keeps a closer eye on costs. Beginning as a small, single unit operation, a concept can struggle and survive. When growing to a few handful of stores, the chance of winning, strictly on product becomes more difficult. And when a concept takes off, bursting on the food front with rocket ship speed, concepts often falter frequently side stepping freshness, quality, neighborhood joint focus, friendliness, or professionalism. When this happens, they lose customers and volume while watching profits dwindle.
In other instances, it’s an inherent fact once the neighborhood joint goes multi-unit, the suits- even if they are still dressed like environmentalists – push the numbers, implement systems, and leave the passion in the lunchroom while substituting spreadsheets and cash flow formulas for the friendliness, freshness and quality that made the neighborhood guy a successful IPO company.
Howard Schultz is the marketing genius and CEO that made Starbucks, Starbucks. But with the recent culinary alteration Starbucks haas been testing, he needs to revisit and rethink a move he made in
Having purchased Pasqua Coffee– a 60 unit chain with locations in
But they didn’t do that with pre grilled day old sandwiches.
The sandwich concept didn’t fly in the repositioned, rebranded Pasqua locations that eventually all became Starbuck stores. The coffee sales increased in the locations, Schultz alleviated his competition, controlled the market and eventually realized that coffee was the backbone, back then, of the company. He 86-ed the sandwiches.
In the past decade, Starbucks has added a number of items that have weakened the aroma of the coffee brand. In the quest to be everything to everybody, Starbucks has on occasion lost focus. But they have always rebounded from the financial dip their stock prices have suffered.
Schultz needs to revisit the article appearing in the August 6, 2009 issue of Business Week. Its there Schultz outlines his plan for trimming costs, implementing process and procedure and analyzing various day parts of his company’s business. He admits he was a little light on numbers as the company grew. He has hired some associates to add and implement items, controls, products and procedures attempting to cap costs. He has closed locations and begun to advertise.
All of these are great steps to continued success. But nobody can successfully prepare a pre-grilled sandwich, dub it with an Italian name and have it sit in a grab and go case for more than day. Just like food loses quality and freshness, so will the brand that tries to sell ingredients between two slices of tired bread.