The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Starbucks is familiarity. I know exactly what I’m going to get when I order. Everywhere I’ve ordered Starbucks, whether it was Chicago, Disney’s Epcot Center, Rotterdam, London, or now—right here in Three Rivers, it’s the same coffee.
In the same way other international beverage companies, such as Budweiser, have found solutions to worldwide consistency, so too has Starbucks. But whereas Budweiser has made efforts to appeal to widespread tastes by watering down and removing bitterness, Starbucks achieves a similar goal by doing the opposite.
Many people have noticed Starbucks leans heavily into the dark roast. The secret about dark roast is that bitter and burnt flavor hides almost every other characteristic of coffee. Regardless of source or quality, the longer you roast the beans, the more they’ll all turn out the same. That’s why I know it will always be the same everywhere I go, and when visiting a place like London (that isn’t known for their coffee), that can be a huge blessing. Once you figure out your preferred drink, you’ll always know exactly what to expect.
Truly, Starbucks is not your place to go for quality artisan coffee. You’ll never hear a coffee connoisseur mention the Seattle-based chain as their favorite place. It’s really more of the gateway toward good coffee in most people’s experience, and again—isn’t that similar to Budweiser? Many beer drinkers tried a domestic lager long before summoning the courage to try their first IPA.
In this way, a new Starbucks can actually be very healthy for a community that already has local coffee shops. Many people that are new to coffee will start with a “safe” sugary Starbucks drink before venturing into a local medium roast with more complexity. Starbucks has been known to add new coffee drinkers to the market in places they set up shop.
In addition to benefits for local coffee shops, the whole community should see a new Starbucks drive thru as a good omen. The brand has developed some of the most sophisticated tools for picking their new locations that measure traffic patterns, average income, and a plethora of demographic and psychographic information. In this way, they are often able to get their stores into real estate ahead of a period of economic growth. “If it’s me reading the signs,” (Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook) I feel very encouraged that Starbucks chose Three Rivers as a recent location.
There’s much conversation to be had about cultural decisions that Starbucks has made; from their fictional “War on Christmas” to whether or not their employees would be let go for wearing #BlackLivesMatter apparel—but I’ll let you be the decider on how that shifts your own personal rating. For me, Starbucks is on the upper edge of a 3.5 out of 5 rating for economic reasons, for consistency, and for introducing new people to this excellent addiction that we pretend can compensate for a lack of sleep.
Michael “Hogey” Hogoboom is a writer, podcaster, and the director of marketing for Watershed Voice.