Starbucks to Baristas: Slow Down

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While most quick-serve establishments are constantly seeking ways to crank out food and drinks at a faster pace, Starbucks (Stock Quote: SBUX) is telling its baristas to take it down a notch.

The Wall Street Journal reports that baristas at the world’s largest coffeehouse chain have been told to slow down their approach to coffee-making in favor of more personal attention to each cup. As part of the new guidelines, baristas are not to work on more than two cups of coffee at once. They’ve also been ordered to steam milk for each individual drink, rather than steaming whole pitchers of milk at a time and using them for several drinks each. The changes have already been implemented at some locations, and will take effect nationwide next month. 

The new guidelines seem to be the result of a sort of existential crisis for Starbucks. The chain has always emphasized high-quality – and consequently, high-priced – beverages, but the popularity of the chain has meant that their stores have been forced to adopt an “assembly line” approach to coffee-making. While that’s meant quick service and fast-moving lines, the Journal notes that consumers have complained about the quality and consistency of the beverages. Starbucks has found itself at a crossroads: Do they keep the lines moving and focus on quantity, or get back to their roots and make every cup special?

The decision to slow things down – one barista said the changes had doubled the amount of time it takes to make some drinks – is a rare stand in favor of quality over quantity. Yet it remains to be seen whether customers will embrace the new strategy if it means significantly higher wait times.

So what do you say, Starbucks fans? Is a better cup of coffee worth an extra five minutes of waiting in line in the morning, or is the coffee fine as is?

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