Speaking of bitter

I do feel sorry for the almost 700 people who will lose their jobs because of Starbucks closing the bulk of their Australian stores, but I’m not the least bit sad to see the stores go. On two occasions I was unlucky enough to have to meet up with someone at the Starbucks in Lavington and each time the experience was stomach churning. Even McCafe can make a better coffee than Starbucks, their coffee has a gruesome burnt flavour which they attempt to hide by filling a ridiculously over-sized cup with enormous loads of milk and sugar. For someone who likes espresso straight, there is nowhere to hide.

I’ve seen a few comments about this on forums, claiming that this is a great rebuff to American cultural imperialism. Personally I think it’s just a great rebuff to a shithouse product in a well serviced market. Next on the list to go, Gloria Jean and Hudsons.

15 thoughts on “Speaking of bitter

  1. Well, Dave, I have never entered the joint myself and your personal experience confirms my intuitive “gut feeling”.

    I see they have brought their original retired founder back into the fold to try and dig themselves out of a financial hole in US. Appears they got a little over-ambitious (read greedy) and opened stores willy-nilly, with no regard for those stores already open in similar neighbourhoods.

  2. Starbucks had the advantage of not being a franchise. All the stores were owned by the company. Because of this, they can expand and contract at there discretion. It’s not like normal franchises where the head office can make a decision to open a new outlet within a short distance from your franchised store and reduce your takings overnight by 30%. So by opening further stores, Starbucks were only spreading their profits along various stores and not ripping their managers off. It’s a different story for the locally owned coffee house; however.

    That said, there is an argument to be made that Starbucks played a major part in improving the standard of coffee that you can now buy. Starbucks enforced the concept of paying a premium price for coffee. It also forced the average cafe to invest in proper coffee making equipment which is not cheap.

  3. It’s not so much a rebuff to American cultural imperialism as it is an indicator that discretionary spending has been forced into decline. IIRC Starbucks are closing 600 stores in the US, so it’s probably the thin edge of the wedge. As the coma patient that is the current US economy slowly goes into multiple organ failure (possibly taking us down with it) expect more of the same.

  4. Lee, your argument about Starbucks improving the market probably hold true in the USA, but it’s not reflected at all in Australia. A few years ago one of the pizza places in Wangaratta had the Victorian champion barista working for them, so I’d argue that our Coffee culture has quite deep European roots that go far beyond the introduction of Starbucks to our shores.

    Lemmiwinks, I think that they just couldn’t cut it in the Australian market. Although I agree that discretionary spending is declining, I suspect that a daily coffee is still one of those things that many people consider a necessity.

  5. Dave we’ve ‘group-thunk’ here! My post is similar to yours in that I also say it was the market that sorted out Starbucks.

    I don’t think this is a real indicator of our economy either. I doubt that the recent interest rate rises & petrol prices had anything to do with this sudden decision to bail out and I’d suggest it’s been a decision made in the US where they are having a lot more problems than we are. They just decided they can no longer carry their ill-conceived and (apparently) inferior Aussie stores, that’s all.

    As for its relevance to the anti-globalisation argument, well it just goes to prove that there’s not as much to fear as the ‘cittaslow’ promoters in this town would have us believe. In the end you either measure up or you go out of business.

  6. The fact that a champion barista was in a pizza joint probably more aptly demonstrates the lack of respect that Aussies had for coffee. Surely if the public respected coffee then he would have had a place of his own?

  7. More groupthink (with myself): As I said on Ray’s blog, I’d rather see Gloria Jean’s go before Starbucks. Where the hell am I going to get the delicious Frappaccino’s from now??

  8. Actually, Dave, I interpret it as a guy with undoubted skill can’t get a job serving coffee anywhere else but a pizza shack. If we truly had a coffee culture, then wouldn’t he be in demand in a place that was actually known for its coffee rather than the amount of mozzarella per slice?

  9. Can I add my 2c to this tide of groupthink? Having seen some pretty good cafes die in Melbourne simply because their coffee wasn’t good *enough*, I agree that the market sorted this one out, in the bigger cities at least. And good thing, too. Amazed they lasted so long in Melbourne.

    Sadly, Starbucks was relevant for the poor sod whose only local option was the takeaway that served “a cup of chino” or the local bowlo’s instant brew (I have been to some of these towns, they still exist). Some people, through sheer ignorance, just didn’t know better, and loved heading to SB when they went to the big smoke.

    Taking a guess that the aforementioned pizza joint was one with some self-respect, I’d say it shows the restaurant manager understood that a good restaurant needs the best in all staff – chef, front of house, and the person who makes the coffee for the end of dinner. Which I think is what DfA is saying. If so, then Wang has some class.

  10. raydixson: “I don’t think this is a real indicator of our economy either. I doubt that the recent interest rate rises & petrol prices had anything to do with this sudden decision to bail out and I’d suggest it’s been a decision made in the US where they are having a lot more problems than we are. They just decided they can no longer carry their ill-conceived and (apparently) inferior Aussie stores, that’s all.”

    Yes, that’s exactly what I was implying. The closure of the Australian stores pales in comparison with the US closures, and since it’s a US company it’s logical to conclude that the situation over there influences their decision making more than the state of our economy.

  11. How is this for putting the boot in (as quoted from today’s SMH online) Ming Du, manager of the Gloria Jean’s Coffees store on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst has said he did not expect his business to benefit from the closure of the nearby Starbucks because the customers who went there were “not interested in real coffee anyway”.

    Nice!

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