More on Starbucks and Efficiency

Continuing yesterday’s post about efficiency and Starbucks… more details about the battle cry memo from Starbuck’s Howard Schultz on the AP. If you’re one of those “I need to read it for myself” people, check it out on Starbucks Gossip (which is definitely worth a read… a great example of how a CEO should talk to their team: take responsibility for actions, and challenge them – and themself – to do better).

If you have ideas on how Starbucks can rediscover it’s core, go tell John Moore at Brand Autopsy.

Here’s my idea:
Baristas as celebrities.

Here in Portland, you can’t walk 5 steps without running into a coffee shop. A lot of Starbucks, and a lot of indie shops. The indie coffee shops build their credibility and reputation based on the beans they use (most use micro-roasted beans done by the local coffee heroes at Stumptown Coffee), and the artisans that are pulling the espresso shots. And these baristas show their stuff at the Northwest Regional Barista Competition: (you may remember a post about this a few months ago).

This is a huge source of pride for the local coffee shops to have baristas competing, and even more so for those that move on to the nationals. If Starbucks had baristas who were truly artisans and not automatic espresso button pushers, it would bring much of their root credibility back to the brand. Especially if these baristas are competing on a regional/national level. Right now, I think most of the talented baristas in Portland wouldn’t even consider working at a Starbucks… it would be like a gourmet chef going to work at McDonald’s.

So… Starbucks should celebrate the heritage and skills of barista artists, by encouraging them to enter in competitions like this, or even creating their own competition for Starbucks-only baristas. Starbucks could compete in local competitions between different stores, and create a following and fan-base for the baristas working at these stores, both by co-workers and customers who visit each store. If you knew your Starbucks was competing against the Starbucks over on NE 44th and Fremont, you’re going to support your home team. Then, move on to states, regionals, nationals… March Madness for Starbucks baristas. The Barista World Cup (cup… coffee… ha!). Create a web site (hey, we do that…) that celebrates these competitors. Maybe there’s even an online bracket/betting pool where you can win Starbucks gift cards by picking the winners. Video clips of the competitors. Social networking for people to “join” and support their local Starbucks. Televise the events at the Starbucks branches, where you can enjoy a latte (hand-crafted, not automatic) and watch your barista compete along with like-minded Starbucks fans.

UPDATE: John let me know that Starbucks used to have a regional Barista Olympics. Didn’t know that… guess button pushing didn’t provide for an exciting competition.

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