Starbucks Baristas Told to Slow Down – WSJ

October 14, 2010 · Filed Under Industry, News 

Photo by - Allison Joyce for The Wall Street Journal

Starbucks Corp. is telling its harried baristas to slow down—which may result in longer lines.

Amid customer complaints that the Seattle-based coffee chain has reduced the fine art of coffee making to a mechanized process with all the romance of an assembly line, Starbucks baristas are being told to stop making multiple drinks at the same time and focus instead on no more than two drinks at a time—starting a second one while finishing the first, according to company documents reviewed recently by The Wall Street Journal.

Baristas are also supposed to steam milk for each drink rather than steaming an entire pitcher to be used for several beverages. Other instructions include rinsing pitchers after each use; staying at the espresso bar instead of moving around; and using only one espresso machine instead of two, according to the documents. (lots)more…

Is Starbucks trying to prove that it has a soul?  Is it trying to convey the notion that they actually care about the quality of their drinks?  Yes.. but that isn’t the question at the heart of the matter.  The real question isn’t whether or not a notion is being conveyed.  The real question is whether or not the notion being conveyed is true.

Just for kicks, I googled (is it a real word yet?) “Wall Street Journal Starbucks” and this was the result.

Click for Full Size

The top link is the current news.  The second link is a direct non-news link to the story.  The third link is a direct non-news link to WSJ’s coverage of Starbucks’ “Plunge Into Instant Coffee”.  Now, maybe it’s just me, but isn’t there something wrong with this picture?  The fact that Starbucks has been in a bit of an identity crisis lately is no real surprise.  A company cannot be all things to all people, and yet that is exactly what Starbucks appears to be attempting to do.

Let’s be clear.  I do not hate Starbucks.  A lot of great coffee professionals got their start at the Siren.  They have taken the idea of coffee as a non-commodity affordable luxury to places where it might not have been successfully introduced otherwise.  Their ubiquitous presence has caused a mass education of the masses, a readily available phony status symbol, an addiction to the combination of sugar, fat, and coffee to the point of a country getting mad at the seller of said products instead of taking responsibility for their own actions, and an enormous population of people who have come to believe that there is such a thing as an industry standard (a part of which is such a thing as the dreaded “Caramel Macchiato”).

It would be fantastic if the coffee giant were to suddenly focus on quality in a tangible sense.  I see this as more of a publicity stunt.  An attempt to make the public see them as something they maybe once were, but certainly are not now.

Frankly, I don’t give a rip if my double short wet cappuccino (leave a good inch of room, please) takes five seconds or fifteen minutes: as long as it is properly made.

Jason Haeger (347 Posts)

Jason is utterly obsessed with coffee, and is the founder and editor of He is available for consulting and barista training at He is also the founder and owner of AJ Coffee Company in Dallas, TX. His favorite brew method changes as often as his favorite coffee: daily. If you are interested in contributing to this website, he would love to hear from you!

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