When Business Insider calls you basic, you may have an image problem.
With over 24,000 stores worldwide, it’s safe to say that Starbucks is just about everywhere. But with this ubiquity comes the problem of seeming pedestrian. The brand that “made it OK to charge more than $2 for a cup of coffee” has lost some of its upscale luster and “is now competing with chains like Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's.” Or as millennial alt-culture webzine Business Insider puts it, “[Starbucks] has gotten, in a sense, too basic.”
Being described as “basic” is probably a good indication that your brand isn’t on trend, but being described as such by an article that has to define the term for it’s presumably older demographic? That’s damning. To be fair, the author uses the term “coffee snob” a lot and cites an article from a blog called “Fashionista”, so maybe the audience isn’t the uncool part of this equation.
Either way, with the rise in popularity of specialty coffee around the world, Starbucks is taking steps to reinvent themselves as a high-end coffee experience. Most of the initiatives involve moving away from the mega-store’s original modeling after a traditional Italian espresso bar and into more third wave cafe territory. Things like pour-overs, flat whites, and nitro cold brew have all been introduced into select stores in an attempt to provide the super premium experience Starbucks is hoping to achieve.
Other steps are a bit more unique, though, like the creation of Upstanders, Starbucks’ first go at creating original content. And of course there is the Roastery in Seattle, the brand’s decadent behemoth of a coffee showroom. With Roasteries in New York and Shanghai already in the works, Starbucks is hoping the super-premium cafes will have a trickle down effect for all their locations, as seen in the infographic below.
The efficacy of these initiatives remains to be seen. It’s hard to imagine a person that frequents a specialty shop opting to go to Starbucks now just because they have pour-over and nitro cold brew, two things they could most likely get at their regular coffee stop. But maybe it will win them back some folks that converted to Dunkin’ Donuts. At the very least, it is familiarizing the general public with things like pour-over (and the associated price hike that comes with handmade single-serve coffee), reducing the slope of the specialty coffee learning curve for the oft-intimidated newbie. And that is undoubtedly a good thing for the industry as a whole.
Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network.
*all images via Starbucks