Sunday, November 20, 2005

Starbucks College Green and the Challenge

Ok I know, I know, another Starbucks posting. But I was asked if I was going to do the Starbucks Challege for the new shop in College Green. However in my defense I have to say that I am not the only one talking about this store, its been on the radio and in the newspapers all weekend so I do feel like I can justify at least one more posting and another entry into the Starbucks Challenge.

First of all this Starbucks store is getting a lot more press and marketing than the one up in Dundrum. In typical Irish media laziness if something doesn't happen within the area of Dublin 1 to 4 then it is regional news and of little interest to them. The Starbucks President of Europe Middle East and Africa was in town on Friday for the opening and was interviewed on the radio. There were Starbucks staff with coffee dispensers on their backs handing out free espresso shots of VERY foul tasting coffee outside the shop. Newspapers have covered the opening and business programs have discussed the danger Starbucks poses to existing coffee chains. Personally I don't think Starbucks poses much of a threat to the existing coffee, most shops do a fairly brisk trade. Chains like Coffee Society have already adopted the "Starbucks experience" with couches and wi-fi, though the wi-fi is pretty expensive. Some other coffee shops have free wi-fi. All of them have loyalty cards and importantly they tend to be cheaper than Starbucks with shorter queues.

This shop is bigger than the one in Dundrum, it is more like the large Starbucks that you see in other countries, for starters it has exterior windows. People were sitting and chatting over empty coffee cups, something I just realised they don't do in Dundrum. It does not suffer from the same delays in service as Dundrum. There is still a queue but it moves quickly and all the tables tend to be occupied. These baristas have had a lot more training and in fact several of them seemed to be American and English leading me to suspect that Starbucks had flown in experienced staff to provide training and keep the shop running smoothly in its opening weekend when the eyes of the press are on it.

Now for the Challenge. The Starbucks EMEA President did mention Fair Trade on the radio a few times during an interview on Saturday so I was pretty confident that they would have at the very least the same amount of Fair Trade coffee that Dundrum does. They do have signs up for Fair Trade coffee being brewed but they don't have any Fair trade beans on sale. I got to the counter and was served by a smiling and pretty blonde Scandinavian lady (there-by biasing my entire review as I am told I have a certain weakness for blondes). I could see the Fair Trade brew so I decided to complicate the task. I asked for a Venti Latte to take away and then asked if I could get it made with Fair Trade beans. This was a new idea to the barista who had to ask one of her supervisors if lattes could be made with the fair trade coffee. The supervisor was apologetic and explained that the espresso machine was not fair trade but I could get a brewed Fair Trade coffee instead. Pretty much the same response I got in Dundrum (and Leicester Square) so I guess that's a Pass for Starbucks College Green, and 100% success for Starbucks Ireland.

Apparently their next store will open in the Harcourt Street area of Dublin, which while on my LUAS route home I think I should leave that one to someone else to review or my work mate Seamus will beat me to death with my coffee mug for posting another Starbucks story ;-)


Siel said...

Wow -- How many are they planning on opening? The rate at which these Starbucks are popping up is rather frightening --

Declan said...

They will double every six months until they cover the entire landmass of country ;-)

They have said they plan to open several more around the Dublin city center over the next few months.

Seamus M. (Smurphie) said...

I also asked for a Fair-trade latte! The offering I got was the same Brewed coffee, but I also found out that they have a thing called "fairly traded coffee". I asked what that meant and they said all their coffee is "Fairly traded", that is it is bought under some very fair criteria. They directed me to their web site and the CSR section. There is a thing called CAFE practices within STARBUCKS. It's like a code of practice which looks at a bigger picture rather then the How much? to Who? answer most people look for. It covers things like Farmer welfare, social and living conditions and the farmhand wage. Very interesting stuff indeed. Look it up.