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Starbucks Corp. said yesterday that it will stop brewing decaffeinated coffee after 12 noon, part of its broader effort to cut $400 million in costs by September 2009.

According to a statement released by the company, ““For many of our stores, the demand for decaf is greatly reduced in the afternoon. With our current standard of continually brewing decaf after 12 p.m. regardless of demand, we have seen a high amount of waste.”

Starbucks said that it will make decaffeinated coffee on demand, and that it only takes about four minutes to brew a cup of decaf when requested by a patron.

KC's View:
To be honest, I don't even understand the concept of decaf. It is sort of like nonalcoholic beer. I mean, what’s the point? (I know I’ll get into trouble for this comment, but there it is. I can count the number of cups of decaf that I’ve consumed in my entire life on the fingers of one hand, and they were almost all because high-test wasn’t available. And I don't even need one finger to count the nonalcoholic beers I’ve consumed.)

(One other parenthetical point. I thought most people drank decaf late in the day, rather in the morning, because the real stuff affects their sleep patterns. So I don't get the decaf-only-in-the-morning deal. But what do I know?)

That said, I would suggest that the way Starbucks framed this decision is all wrong – it sounds like a blanket dictum that is efficiency-driven rather than customer-centric.

If it were me, I would have suggested that the decision about whether to brew decaf in the afternoons would be left up to store managers, who could make the judgment based on their knowledge of and interaction with customers. Basic formulas could be established as a guideline, but the program could have been better positioned as keeping the company more in synch with shopper needs, rather than as part of a way to save $400 million.

As it is, Starbucks may have handed its competition – ranging from Caribou Coffee to Dunkin’ Donuts to small independent coffee shops – a marketing theme.