Is Starbucks missing a trick?

I read with interest the latest news from Starbucks:

From Bloomberg: Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee chain, will stop continuously brewing decaffeinated coffee after noon as part of a drive to waste less and save $400 million by September.

The company, which last year started brewing fresh pots of coffee every 30 minutes, will have the caffeine-free version available upon request after 12 p.m., the Seattle-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. It takes about four minutes for a fresh cup to brew, spokeswoman Bridget Baker said.

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

So there you are. Apparently decaf coffee is not needed as much after lunch. Who would have thought that?

Actually looking at this from an efficiency point of view this is a very good move. They are not removing decaf totally, just reducing waste through not brewing and disposing of coffee that isn't being sold.

In today's economic hard times this makes a lot of sense. It reduces waste, decreases cost and doesn't reduce customer satisfaction. Although you do have to ask the question of why they don't brew to demand for everything? I visit Costa coffee and Cafe Nero (both far superior to Starbucks) and when I ask for decaf it get's brewed on the spot instantly - but then again so does the non-decaf stuff. In fact nothing is brewed on a cycle, it's all to order.

Does this mean that Starbucks are continually running 'freshly brewed' coffee (which could be as old as 30 minutes) throughout the day? Why are they doing this? What is the process point?

This obviously produces waste ($400 million in 9 months - WOW!) produces coffee which is old and stale and doesn't provide the same level of service as sites such as Costa and Cafe Nero. So why do they do it? Is it to get more people through the door quicker? Maye. But doesn't this cause an issue with the number of people that can physically be accommodated? A lot of people who are there will probably be sitting with a laptop availing themselves of the Wifi, so there is a theoretical maximum amount of people that can go through in a given length of time. Obviously take-out's will increase this number, but how many people come into Starbucks just for a 'coffee?' Don't they ask for a'double decaf vente grande skinny with whipped cream and 6 sugars'?

Without evidence to the contrary I think Starbucks have missed a big opportunity here. What do you think?

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