The man who built the chain, Howard D. Schultz, has retaken the reins in an effort to revive it. He is scheduled to roll out a plan on Wednesday that will almost certainly involve shutting down more stores in the United States while accelerating expansion overseas.
Mr. Schultz has said he wants to refocus on the “customer experience,” recapturing some of the magic of the chain’s early years...
As the company grew and customer traffic increased, Starbucks expanded its food offerings while introducing efficiencies like those automated espresso machines. Gradually, complaints surfaced that Starbucks felt more like a fast-food restaurant than a coffeehouse....Part of the fast-food feel is the people who work there. You can call them "baristas," but you can tell that the job for them feels like a fast-food job.
Mr. Schultz had already outlined many of the problems in a Feb. 14, 2007, memo that is now famous. Entitled “The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience,” the memo acknowledged that rapid growth had diluted the Starbucks magic.
ADDED: Starbucks also pre-steams big pitchers of milk. Even when the place isn't busy, those pitchers of hot milk are sitting around simplifying the barista's job. You go over to wait for your coffee and instead of seeing your cup made to order, you see a button pushed and old milk dumped in.
UPDATE: Schultz announces his plan:
Starbucks will close about 100 U.S. stores this year, scale back its U.S. expansion and begin focusing on faster growth overseas as it seeks to revive its cachet and rekindle sales growth that by one measure sagged to an all-time low last quarter.We don't need no stinking sandwiches.
The Seattle coffee-shop chain also will stop selling warmed sandwiches, which don't contribute much to profits but take employees' time and interfere with the smell of coffee in stores.