Lydia Tolman Adelheid Thieme Spring 2005 The Rise of Starbucks While silently pondering the merits of a venti wet latte made with nonfat milk, an extra shot of espresso, a few pumps of caramel flavor, and a dollop of whipped cream in the Starbucks line of Arizona State‟s Memorial Union, I had a mathematical epiphany one morning, which is an amazing fact, considering I had not had my daily dose of caffeine. Count with me. There is a Starbucks in the ASU Memorial Union, a Starbucks in the W.P. Carey Business School of ASU, a Starbucks in the Palo Verde East dorm, a Starbucks right off campus on Mill Avenue, and a Starbucks in the local Safeway. There are five Starbucks in and around the ASU community— at least, to my immediate knowledge. Further investigation, however, led me to the conclusion that there are actually twenty-five Starbucks within a five-mile radius of ASU (“Store”). Numbers alone should be enough to prove that coffee or, to be more exact, Starbucks coffee is a huge trend, but if you will not take my word for it, take the words of the entrepreneur and CEO of Starbucks himself, Howard Schutlz: “[T]here are people living their lives around Starbucks. You‟d never guess coffee was so important in people‟s daily lives, but it is” (qtd. in “Interview”). Why has Starbucks grown more than fifteen hundred percent in the last ten years (Markman)? And, more importantly, how is this new obsession quietly changing the lives of millions of Americans? The once simple, ten calorie cup of joe has become a pricey, fattening, calorie-laced status symbol phenomenon, of which we cannot seem to get enough (Linn). According to the National Coffee Association of USA Inc., over 109 million Americans, or half of the adult U.S. population, drink coffee every day, and another twenty-five percent drink it occasionally (ElBoghdady). Even fifty years ago, these numbers may have not been that
shocking, since people have been consuming coffee to perk up in the morning for years. However, what is surprising is the additional report that the biggest gains in coffee drinking are “among the daily and occasional drinkers of „gourmet‟ coffee of the kind popularized by Starbucks” (ElBoghdady). The numbers in that category rose from about 87 million drinkers in 1997 to 150 million drinkers in 2001. The key to Starbucks‟ success may not just lie in the type of coffee beans used to brew my daily caffeine dose. Starbucks, like cell phone and computer companies, has created a new need that was “non existent in this country only two decades ago” (ElBoghdady). Behind Starbucks‟ success are brilliant business maneuvers that make us want to part with those three or four dollars for a cup of coffee. The statement that Starbucks is literally everywhere is not hyperbole. It is a fact that can be proven by a few keystrokes into Starbucks.com‟s store locator, which informed me there are approximately five Starbucks for every square mile around Arizona State University(“Store”). Although conventional business wisdom has dictated that a retailer should space its stores, Starbucks has “embraced selfcannibalization as the fastest way to expand its business” (ElBoghdady). Surprisingly enough, the tactic has worked by providing convenient, quick, and trendy locales for rushed coffee buyers. The strategy also has the added benefit of free advertising by simply being everywhere. To attract even more customers, Starbucks has also created what founder Schultz calls the “third place” of American life (Markman). Rose, a teenager who is a supporter of the Starbucks trend, explains that she can get “more than a drink for $3 or $4. She buys a chair and a table of her own where she can chat with friends or populate her sketchbook with cartoon characters for as long as she wants—and that‟s a pretty good deal” to her (Sommerfeld). However, as I walked out of my local Starbucks to rush to my next class, I realized that I hardly ever use the provided over-stuffed couches and pseudo-intellectual board games, so there must be something more to
this Starbucks trend than just Schultz‟s “third place” and the fact that Starbucks seems to be plastered in every state, city, and town across the United States. Surprisingly enough, as coffee drinking has been on the rise, smoking has been dropping dramatically among teens across the United States (Sommerfeld). Coffee appears to be the new “social lubricant and image enhancer,” the new trend, and the new addiction among teenagers (Sommerfeld). This fact alone may be enough reason for Starbucks‟ explosive growth. I say, who can blame the kids? The Frappucinos are the equivalent of a milkshake with a shot of caffeine. Jessica Frederick, a senior in high school and a Starbucks coffee connoisseur, explains carefully, “Sometimes carrying around a cup of coffee helps complete a look. A pair of capris, flip flops, and a coffee—and it has to have the cardboard sleeve—is very trendy” (qtd. in Sommerfeld). In fact, one does not even need the actual substance in the cup to be cool—just the Starbucks branded piece of rolled up cardboard, the new status symbol, will do (Sommerfeld). If teenagers, however, were the only patrons of Starbucks, I would write the Starbucks‟ coffee cup status symbol off as a long-lived fad similar to the popular brightly colored Livestrong bracelets and its many copycats. However, apparently the adult population‟s addiction is just as big, if not bigger, than the teen‟s obsession with the little white and green cups. Jon Markman calls this trend “a lust for status emblems… that we carry around in our collective cerebral cortex” (Markman). The compulsion to carry this coffee cup rather than, say, a fifty cent gas station cup of practically the same coffee is similar to the “compunction among women to paint their fingernails” and the reasons that businesspeople shake hands (Markman). When a woman paints her fingernails, for example, that woman is sending a subtle message to others that she does not do physical labor, and when businesspeople shake hands they are showing each other “that neither bears the calluses of hard labor” (Markman). In other words, by
carrying an over-priced cup of coffee, I can effectively and skillfully prove that I am wealthy enough to not care about how much my coffee costs. Many of the Starbucks drinkers out there are very aware of the tactics the Starbucks Corporation uses to lure them in and are also conscious of the fact that they are just mere members of the cardboard cup carrying community. They are complacent and happy to be a part of this trend. However, these coffee drinkers may not be aware of how much extra money they are pouring into Starbucks‟ wallet and how many extra calories they are pouring into their bodies. At some point in a long gone past, “a dime could buy you a cup of coffee… The company‟s (Starbucks‟) 12-ounce tall (small) latte ranges from $2.25 in Minnesota to $3 in New York City” (Wong). Jon Markman also notes that for forty cents, he can make a cup of Starbucks brand coffee at his own home every day, yet he still drops by his closest Starbucks every morning to pick up a cup for $3.22 (Markman). After some careful calculation, Markman determines that he is paying around $1.37 for the barista, or, the drink preparer, to steam some milk, a process which takes around twenty seconds. If the barista prepares steamed milk constantly, she is making Starbucks about $246 an hour. If one even narrows the steamed milk production down to one cup a minute, the company is still getting $175 an hour for steaming milk, “and that goes a long way to explain why the company‟s profit margins come in around 11.5 percent pretax” (Markman). This willingness to pay for expensive coffee does not make sense to any wary consumer, and it especially does not make sense to anyone living in the current economic decline. While consumers‟ wallets are losing weight for the benefit of Starbucks, their waistlines seem to be gaining. In the time of health conscious best-sellers like Fast Food Nation and hits like the documentary Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock, the fast food industry and the greater
restaurant industry is trying to trim down the epic portions and calories that dominated during the late twentieth century. Yet, Starbucks seems to have eluded this trend. This could be because coffee is not inherently fattening. In fact, “a cup of black coffee has just 10 calories” (Linn). However, if you decide to satisfy your Starbucks addiction “with a 24-ounce Strawberries and Crème frappuccino, for example, … you‟re sipping 780 calories, 19 grams of fat, and 133 grams of carbohydrates” (Precker). That frappucino has more calories than a Quarter Pounder with cheese and a small fry from McDonald‟s—combined (“McDonald‟s). Diane Javelli, a dietitian from the University of Washington in Seattle says that “many people do not count the calories they slurp, whether it‟s coffee, juice, or soda,” which means way too many people are probably devouring almost eight hundred extra calories a day in the form of a Starbucks drink. With 8,337 Starbucks locations available worldwide and countless cafés proclaiming “We are proud to serve Starbucks coffee,” the question of whether or not Starbucks is a national phenomenon becomes moot. Whether you are lured in out of curiosity about this coffee place that seems to be everywhere or whether you are seduced inside out of a desire to retreat to the comfortable couches with a cup of warm coffee, once you buy that cardboard cup marked by the mysterious green mermaid, you have set in action a course that cannot be reversed. You have become a part of the growing movement to pay too much for a cup of coffee. But before you sip that overpriced eight hundred calorie milkshake that passes off as coffee, remember McDonald‟s. The fast food restaurants are striving to improve their menus and to make the food they serve healthier and safer because of works like Fast Food Nation, Super Size Me, and the words of the public. America has finally realized that just because you are born hungry does not mean you are born wanting a Big Mac. The question that remains is this: When will America understand
that just because you are born thirsty does not mean you are born wanting a grande Chai latte made with soy milk and a pump of gingerbread syrup.
Works Cited ElBoghdady, Dina. “Pouring it on: The Starbucks Strategy? Locations, Locations, Locations.” Washington Post 25 August 2002, late ed.: H1. “Interview: Howard Schultz has made a fortune trying to convince the world that it cannot get through the day without a tall skinny latte. But, for the Chief Executive of Starbucks, world domination may not be enough.” The Independent 24 May 2000, late ed.: Business 1+. Linn, Allison. “Your Health.” St. Louis Post 9 August 2004, late ed.: Health & Fitness 4. Markman, Jon D. “Starbucks‟ Genius Blends Community, Caffeine.” 16 February 2005. 2 March 2005 <http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/P107679.asp?Printer>. “McDonald‟s USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items.” 10 March 2005 <http://www.mcdonalds.com/app_controller.nutrition.index1.html>. Precker, Michael. “Starbucks is the latest heavy-hitter to see the lite Fast-food Companies list nutritional info on the Web.” The Dallas Morning News 20 July 2004, late ed.: D1. Sommerfeld, Julia. “Coffee Cool: The „Other” Teen Drinking Scene.” The Seattle Times 26 October 2003, late ed.: 22. “Store Locator.” 10 March 2005 < http://www.starbucks.com/retail/locator/PrxResults.aspx? a=1&LOC=33.4160960425458:-111.936568873132&CT=33.4160960425458:-111.9365 688731321.78126408441369:1.33594806331027&countryID=244&FC=RETAIL&dataS ource=MapPoint.NA&Radius=5&GAD2=1201+S+Forest+Ave&GAD3=Tempe,+AZ+85 281&GAD4=United+States&IC=33.4160960425458:-111.936568873132:32:1201+S+ Forest+Ave>.
Wong, Brad. “Cup of Starbucks Going Up Average of 11 Cents Oct. 6: First Coffee-Price Increases Since August 2000.” Seattle Post 28 September 2004, late ed.: E1.