Published on: November 18, 2011
MNB reported the other day that Starbucks is spending $30 million to acquire Evolution Fresh, described as “a California-based premium juice maker,” and said it plans to launch a new health and wellness-driven chain next year.
I commented that we should expect this to be a multi-channel play - that in addition to juice and smoothie bars, Starbucks will aggressively try to expand the Evolution Fresh footprint in the packaged goods arena.
MNB user Katherine Nilbrink responded:FYI: Evolution Fresh already has a packaged presence – we carry their juices in some of our Whole Foods Market stores in SoCal (they may be in other stores as well – I’m not sure how far they reach).
I knew that. I was suggesting that we’re going to see an expanded presence, and didn’t mean to imply otherwise.
Got the following email from an MNB user:Thursday's "FaceTime" had the following statement: “They are talking about local, organic, sustainability and good taste ... and I have to believe that these students are likely to emerge from college with more sophisticated palates and much more information about what they eat.”
Wednesday's "Eye Opener" had the following statement: “The wealth gap between younger and older Americans has stretched to the widest on record, worsened by a prolonged economic downturn that has wiped out job opportunities for young adults and saddled them with housing and college debt."
College costs are rising far greater than inflation and wages have been stagnant for quite some time. This means the overall "value" of a college degree is going down, with no end in sight to escalating costs. What is causing these escalating costs? Colleges are competing for dollars in a free market format, with students needing to choose between various options. 17/18yr olds are relatively immature in a worldly sense and may or may not be concerned with the eventual payback. This is exacerbated by colleges competing, not by raising the bar of academics, but by offering the organic meals you spoke of, concierge services, remodeled dorms that rival the best hotels, etc.
SmartMoney releases a ranking of "payback" which compares the cost of going to a college vs. the salaries coming out. This type of thinking should be a major consideration in the choice going forward. You go to school to learn, learn about life and learn about the topic of your future career. What's the point of getting people hooked on a lifestyle - posh living quarters, high end food, etc. - when the very institution that is offering these will saddle them with debt that they'll be hard pressed to overcome?
You and I would have a fundamental disagreement about the college experience ... and just to put my answer in context, I’ve been spending a lot of time in recent weeks on college campuses, as my daughter, a high school senior, goes through the application process.
Do I think college is expensive? Of course. It is an incredible financial burden to take on, both for parents and kids, and I completely understand that people are drawing a straight line between the college experience, the college cost, and the post-college career. But too expensive? Compared to what?
But I also think that part of the college experience is figuring out what you want to do, and trying on lots of different hats to see which ones fit best. Kids this age are supposed to be relatively immature. I’ve encouraged my daughter not to lock herself into anything at this point ... to at least accept the notion that her interests may change, and that she’s starting with a blank canvas. She deserves that, and I hope she’s able to take advantage of that.
I would never describe local, sustainable food and sophisticated palates as necessarily being high-end. Great food does not have to be expensive ... imagination actually is more important than money. And I dearly hope that whatever my daughter’s college experience is, it is not a lowest-common-denominator experience - not in the classroom, not in the cafeteria, and not in the dorm. I want it all to raise her expectations, elevate her tastes, and educate her in ways more than academic. (Some of this education, I’m sure, would turn my hair gray if I thought about it too much. But while I may be old, I’m not too old to remember what my college experience was like in the mid-seventies
. And I refuse to be a hypocrite.)
And I got a lot of emails about yesterday’s FaceTime about Starbucks, apparently tired of being used as New York City’s public restroom, has decided to restrict access to its bathrooms in the Big Apple, even making some of them employee-only.
One MNB user wrote:Clean and available bathrooms are essential in any business. Even though I have never visited New York and am not familiar with the lack of facilities, I do have a ten-year daughter that always wants to try out the bathrooms no matter where we go. She is a very good judge on if a bathroom is available and if it is clean, especially in our company’s stores. There has been more than once that she has commented on how disgusting the bathroom is and she asks if the bathrooms are that bad, should we really buy our food from that store? As a former custodian, that cleaned a lot of public restrooms, it does not have to be that bad to maintain. Even if the bathrooms need to be cleaned more frequently, they should be made available. It is a necessary expense and part of a positive image.
Another MNB user wrote:I totally use Starbucks as not only my favorite beverage and breakfast place when traveling but as well as I count on it to be my clean restroom break ....
In fact I can count on Starbucks in NYC or Hawaii or little towns along the I-84 to get my caffeine, food treat and a clean restroom...my husband and kids even know these are the only places to 'go' that we can all agree & count on.....
I am a gold member card carrier member and my idea if the cost of the restroom is too costly to maintain then make me swipe my card for entrance and limit the use to the restroom to those loyal customers....
From another MNB user:Interesting Face Time today and I agree - bathrooms matter.
I'm the one who insisted we upgrade our public restroom experience with a recent remodel in one of our locations. It's not just about accessibility but your total brand store experience. And ultimately it's a basic human need.
I'm more troubled by the fact that many of our biggest cities haven't figured out a way to address the real issue of having public restrooms available for citizens and tourists. As someone who spent many years on the road in sales, I can tell you that I'd plan my stops and the dollars I spent based on the restroom facilities.
Yet another MNB user chimed in:Now for the important stuff, where do you go when you gotta go: This is one situation that is crying out for a store-by-store solution. The Starbucks at Columbus Circle, with heavy tourist foot traffic, near the edge of Central Park and directly across from a popular subway stop, is notorious for having a loo line that snakes throughout the store, disrupting the customers and ruining the ideal Starbucks experience. If I were the manager there I would lock the door. Whereas, the store at Park and 29th is a serene oasis with only an occasional line for the facilities and relatively few people exploiting their open-door policy.
A lot of coffee shops give out wi-fi passwords that expire within a couple of hours of a purchase. Perhaps Starbucks could transfer this technology somehow to their restroom locks in places like Columbus Circle, and get some PR points for innovation in the process. I’ll bet that they could acquire that app for free by challenging engineering students to design it – and get even better PR.
Another reader writes:While I suspect that there will be a truckload of polarized opinions on the bathroom issue, my own belief is that has to be handled on a store-by-store basis.
According to the folks at Chowhound, NY requires bathrooms for places with more than 20 seats. Many of Starbucks competitors (i.e. Dunkin) have already closed their bathrooms.
Living in Portland, I encountered all manner of solutions. Many Starbucks allowed access only by key, which is less than ideal. Some required employees to unlock the door on a per case basis. These are not in the majority, but they're no different than QSR units in other urban areas. While in college I worked at a coffee shop with open access bathrooms and that meant to expect any or all of the following, often on a routine basis: prostitution, junkies passed out on the toilet, blood sprinkles on the walls from a missed vein, people changing clothes and leaving their soiled clothes behind. Every time one of us found someone passed out in a stall it triggered the following: EMS, Fire truck, witness statements, report for corporate, etc. And you probably wouldn't be surprised what happens if they actually died--which happened about once a year.
My point here is that I suspect many who bristle at the locked (or keyed entry) bathrooms don't have a very clear picture of all of the things that can--and do--go on in those bathrooms. It's a heck of a lot more than the mere addition of a few sketchy looking homeless dudes.
Do I think every Starbucks unit in NY should shutter their bathrooms? No. But in instances or neighborhoods where the above mentioned behaviors become the norm, I don't see a lot of choice.
But the bottom line is that this is something customers understand as an urban neighborhood issue and not something about a larger corporate mission statement. Put another way, everyone whose ever travelled our nation's highway system always remarks that McDonald's is the place of choice to stop because you can always be assured of clean bathrooms. But common sense tells us that this maxim goes by the wayside the minute you hit NYC.
And, from another MNB user:I agree with you on Starbucks locking restroom but also understand their concerns. I wonder how much it would cost to put a scanner on the restroom lock, and print a barcode on each receipt that is unique every day. This would ensure that the restrooms were used by customers only.
Another great idea.
Another reader offered:I don't know about yours, but my father told me to always buy something when you went into a business and used their restroom. Gas station, Dairy Queen, Starbucks - all the same in his book - and in mine. I suspect that more than a few other parents told their children the same thing, and if Starbucks closes the doors on the restrooms, they might be able to save some more money by purchasing smaller cash drawers.
And yet another comment:Starbucks as a “third place” certainly needs to be aware of changes that will drastically alter its perception among its patrons. The availability of a bathroom is part and parcel to the appeal for many people. Maybe they’d prefer a line of coffee drinkers relieving themselves on the side of the building? Surely such depraved behavior doesn’t happen, though, and certainly not in NYC… Places like Panera will certainly benefit from any restrictions of this nature – we already enjoy that chain much more as our remote office.
My wife and I were on our honeymoon in Europe a few weeks back and we stopped by the Starbucks in Vienna across from the State Opera House. I don’t know if this is in play in America, but your receipt includes a bathroom access code. Without it, you can’t use the facilities. That may be a meet-in-the-middle option Starbucks can employ more broadly. That being said, I’ve been in a number of Starbucks where the “campers” have taken up so much of the seating that we had to get our stuff to go – we know this was a past gripe of Starbucks. If these restrictions are part of an attempt by corporate to discourage the Occupy Starbucks crowd, I can see the merit but it’s a delicate procedure. If they go too extreme (employees only might be), the collateral damage might be significant.
Responding to the piece this week about the Salvation Army taking credit cards and not just cash at its familiar holiday charity outposts, one MNB user wrote:Sure you’re ahead of me on this but couldn’t help notice that in the same posting you mentioned the “eye opening” approach that the Salvation Army is using by accepting plastic for donations while the USPS so pathetically out of touch that they herald the receipt of junk mail as justification for them not to be put out of their misery. It would seem to me that some of that money they’re throwing down the toilet funding these ridiculous ads could be better spent on a recruiter to find the people at the Salvation Army that clearly are thinking outside the box – two institutions that have been around forever with two distinctly different ways of thinking...