Here's a thought: Make Starbucks "partners" wear clown attire. That won't scare away customers, will it?
"McDonald's made us better." That's what Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told a business conference in Palm Springs, California yesterday, as reported by Reuters via the NYT. He didn't specify in what ways, exactly, the overlit, kid-clogged, artery-congesting fast-food purveyor of corn syrup, salt, and sugar has helped SBUX. Indeed, the best Reuters could do was point to the cost-cutting Schultz has implemented since returning to his CEO post last year. Instead, Reuters reports that Schultz "said the McDonald's McCafe advertising blitz prompted many coffee drinkers to compare products from the two companies. He said that benefited Starbucks."
So recession-impacted Starbucks customers are comparison shopping the two chains and opting for SBUX on what basis exactly? Price? Service? The acrid tang of burnt coffee? Is there a clown metric? Schultz doesn't say.
As we've written, Starbucks' promising fourth-quarter results don't reflect increased sales but fewer stores and staff. The product mix is a different matter. Starbucks has a checkered history with adding menu items--like the Egg McMuffin-esque breakfast sandwiches that caused customers to complain about the greasy cooking smell--beyond coffee and finger food. But if the company is really serious about increasing its margins, maybe there are some other ways the McDonald's model could help...
How else can McDonald's help make Starbucks a better company? Clearly, WiFi and clean restrooms are not enough. Nor is the promise of easy-listening CDs for sale at the counter. So we'd like to see some of the following Golden Arches-style additions to our favorite Starbucks locations:
Ball-pit play area... but for adults! Too many calories in those lattes and Top Pot donuts? Work them off with a 15-minute romp in the ball pit. (Rendering above is only preliminary; balls would be green and white in final Starbucks version.) Also: a great opportunity for partners to sell spill-proof coffee mugs.
Starbucks servers--sorry, we mean "partners"--are already instructed to be cheerful and solicitous. But are they clowny? We don't think so. Just imagine how the face paint, oversized shoes, and water-squirting lapel flowers will add to the morning coffee experience.
And lastly (below)...don't pretend you don't want them.