business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Jim Swoboda:

Thank you for sharing the photos of the Seattle Starbucks Reserve store. As a diehard Starbucks customer, I look forward to seeing it, or another soon. Having said that, I must share a recent experience.

I have been waiting and waiting for the Starbucks Clover system to show up where in live in Michigan. To date, I am still waiting. Having the ability to try some of the worlds greatest coffee on a single cup basis is intriguing. Last week, in New Orleans, I finally found a store with the Clover. So, I tried the Jamaican Blue Mountain brew by the cup using Clover. I must confess to being underwhelmed. And it likely is more related to the human process than the Clover process.

The young man who prepared my cup opened a bag of coffee and proceeded to walk to the common grinder where they grind bags of coffee. That’s an immediate problem of course, as the Jamaican Blue Mountain was now mixed with whatever grounds that were still in the grinder. No effort was made to brush out the grinder or the chute. Then, the grind was put into the Clover, which candidly, looked dirty and similarly contaminated. So, I ended up with an expensive cup that candidly, fell well short of expectations.

I contrast that with a little coffee shop downtown by me which makes all their coffee by the cup. Great care it taken in grinding in a clean grinder, and then carefully, hand pouring 205 degree water over the fresh grind. The beans have been freshly roasted. The resulting cup is indeed a special treat. The reason for sharing this is if Starbucks wants to up their game and truly provide the ultimate coffee experience as the Starbucks Reserve label would suggest, they need to up their delivery game as well to match the promise with the result.

Seems to me that Starbucks really wants to make a successful play in the Reserve/Clover/Roastery space, it cannot make these mistakes.

Now, I’d bet that this would never happen at the Roastery or the Reserve stores - these are showplaces for the brand. But the magic really happens when the education of associates goes right down throughout the organization. Mistakes happen, but sloppiness ands inattentiveness can kill a brand experience.

We had a story last week about how some so-called experts are suggesting that the supermarket industry ought to take up the slack that is being created by the demise of Toys R Us. MNB reader George Denman responded:

Another factor in the Toys 4 Us debacle is that Amazon has focused less on competing with them but making their stores irrelevant, a core tactic from Blue Ocean Shift. E-commerce now covers 24% of toys sold with the vast majority going to the Big A. Consumer electronics and Footwear are the only 2 categories with greater ecommerce shifts. By contrast CPG has only seen a 4% shift to commerce. Why in the world would grocery stores want to play in a shrinking business model?


On the subject of sexual harassment, one MNB reader wrote:

I worked 40 years at a large CPG company, mostly in supervisory roles. We had ample training (including anti-sexual harassment) on a yearly basis. Any employee that was not aware of what was/was not permissible only had themselves to blame. Did this training stop all forms of harassment? Unlikely. But, this training coupled with what you mention “There need to be hard and swift penalties” made a tremendous difference in our culture.  It’s unfortunate this needs to be legislated, but for companies/organizations without these practices already in place, it probably must be.

MNB wrote the other day about how a product called Soylent - which we said was one of the worst names for a food product, ever - is getting distribution at Walmart.

One MNB reader observed:

Back in college, one of my good friends ordered a ton of Soylent and we all tried it as a space-agey nutrient drink. I think we had chocolate flavor. It was the nastiest thing that I have ever tried. It was a chalky powder that you mixed with water or milk to make a protein shake type drink. Now, this was probably four years ago at this point, so they may have improved the taste, but nothing will ever make me interested in purchasing Soylent.

And you’re right: Soylent is a terrible name.

MNB reader Bill Bolton had a similar take:

I agree with him, that Soylent is the dumbest name for a food product. In my minds eye , I can still see Edward G Robinson going on the final trip.

We posted a Walmart commercial the other day that focuses on easy reordering, and one MNB reader responded:

Kudos to Walmart for trying KC. But until Walmart can deliver an item I order late on a Friday by Sunday like Amazon, they have a ways to go.


Finally, thanks to all the MNB readers - and there were dozens - who wrote in about the fact that a combination of mayonnaise and ketchup isn't just an ethnic Latino product, but also is known in various places as either “fry sauce” or “Russian dressing.”

KC's View: