Starbucks Retraining Employees At 7,100 Stores Next Week

Next Tuesday, Starbucks will close 7,100 corporate-owned stores early to implement a company-wide retraining session on how to make drinks. “The barista re-education is a ‘renewed focus on espresso standards,’ say Starbucks honchos.” We thought that’s why they bought the robot espresso machines—so they didn’t have to have trained coffee pullers anymore.

The training session is another move by re-instated CEO Howard Schultz to demonstrate a renewed focus on product quality, although it also sounds a little bit like a PR stunt:

“Our unprecedented level of commitment to and investment in our people will provide them with the tools and resources they need to exceed the expectations of our customers,” CEO Howard Schultz said in a written release. “We believe that this is a bold demonstration of our commitment to our core and a reaffirmation of our coffee leadership.”

(Thanks to Adam!)

“Starbucks closing 7,000-plus stores–for several hours — to retrain baristas” [Chicago Tribune]
“Starbucks stores to close for espresso training” [Wall Street Journal]

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(Photo: Travelin’ Librarian)

Comments

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  1. theblackdog says:

    Maybe they’re finally getting rid of the robotic espresso machines?

  2. Falconfire says:

    @theblackdog: Maybe they are going to learn to throw away the stale coffee while they are at it too?

    Coffee should NEVER taste like it was roasted with a butane torch.

  3. Chols says:

    The closing shouldn’t affect us to much. If they plan it right, we can all just walk across the block to the next one.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “We believe that this is a bold demonstration of our commitment to our core and a reaffirmation of our coffee leadership.”

    That, and we think $6 for a cup of coffee is a darn good deal.

  5. jesseraub says:

    Starbucks jokes aside, I can comment on this better as a current employee.

    The automatic espresso machines only automatically pull shots. You still have to steam a pitcher of milk like a regular machine (even though the steam wands have a different shape and can shut off automatically at 150 degrees). Also, they’re training employees on how to tweak the machines, look for quality standards, etc. It’s part of Howie’s master plan.

    @cunnij98: Starbucks espresso based lattes are similar in price to any coffee shop. When you pay for a LATTE, you pay for shots of espresso (which run about 50cents to $1.50 a piece at most places), labor that it takes to steam the milk and pull the shots, flavored syrups, the milk itself, and whipped cream if the drink calls for it. A cup of brewed coffee runs $1.75-$2.07, similar in price to most coffee stores.

    You can knock the quality all you want to, but ignorance about pricing schemes and complaining that it’s too expensive gets on my nerves.

  6. namenomore says:

    It will not change a damn thing unless the train their managers to care and enforce policy. Which is a shame.

  7. namenomore says:

    *they

  8. Anonymous says:
  9. PatrickIs2Smart says:

    My beef isn’t with the corporate stores… It’s those damn licensed locations that are always screwing up my drinks! Re-train them!

  10. Mojosan says:

    Can we just have one giant “StaRBuX iz Teh SuX0r!” and get it over with. It’s so tiring.

    I go to my local Starbucks 2x a day during the week. The staff is friendly,the place is clean, the “fixin’s bar” is always stocked, and the coffee is always fresh.

    And it’s a whopping $0.12 more than the local convienence store glop.

  11. mac-phisto says:

    making sure your esperesso shots are poured correctly warrants re-education. making sure your employees don’t treat your customers like shit, on the other hand, warrants a “we take this seriously” press release.

  12. JStrulleh says:

    They’re touting this as a good thing, but this just kinda screams to me, “We screwed up somewhere.”

  13. MissTic says:

    hmm…didn’t their profits go down recently? I say P.R. stunt.

  14. boandmichele says:

    @Mojosan: glop? the convenience store coffee is probably of a better quality, and a better roast than starbucks’. starbucks coffee is ‘flash’ roasted, leaving that delicously burned flavor in your mouth. all for only 12 cents more!

  15. ptkdude says:

    Oh how cute! They’re having re-education camp!

  16. drmrsthemonarch says:

    Isn’t the “distinctive” Starbucks flavor just a byproduct of the, uh, BURNING of the beans?

  17. swalve says:

    Can we all agree to shut up about how smart we are about coffee roasting and how dumb Starbucks is about it? They’ve got 7100 stores… *somebody* must like the stuff.

  18. balthisar says:

    @jesseraub: At Tim Horton’s (which has better coffee and a drive-through), the largest coffee there is only $1.74 w/ tax included, but I’m sure that’s due to regional variation. If you get to the 7-Eleven or some of the gas stations at the right time, they have quite excellent coffee for $1.05 — but, you must know what you’re getting.

    In all cases, I still prefer my own, self-ground, dark roast, use-lots-of-coffee-to-brew-with approach. It’s less than a $0.25 per pot if you don’t count labor, advertising, and other overhead that I don’t have to pay for.

  19. Angryrider says:

    Yes! Maybe someone will learn how to use those ginormous ice scoopers!

  20. Quellman says:

    Sounds like a good idea. A retrain to make sure the correct portions are used, which should decrease their cost. Similar to airlines limiting 1 olive in every drink).

    Now if it actually helps their quality, who knows.

    @balthisar: You must live somewhere without much business because the only Starbucks here that don’t have a drive-thru is the one located in the mall. (Tim Hortons has great donuts, yum!)

  21. conformco says:

    You sure this isn’t just Phase 2: [www.theonion.com]

  22. Jon R. says:

    So where are they going to find 7,100 qualified baristas to do all of that training in a single day?

  23. PinkBox says:

    I admit I like Starbucks for their lattes, although I use my french press at home with a Whole Foods blend if I want regular coffee.

    Anyways, I’m glad they are doing the training. It amazes me how different the drink can taste depending on who made it. Sometimes they’re nasty enough that I have to ask for a replacement, while other times they taste simply wonderful.

  24. Sherryness says:

    I love Starbucks, but what they really need is to teach their baristas how to stir the drink properly after it’s all put together so one doesn’t encounter all their raw sugar in the last 2 swallows at the bottom.

  25. Falconfire says:

    @Mojosan: Odds are, if you think Starbucks coffee is good, you have never in your life EVER experienced good coffee, and the taste of such would probably lead you to commit suicide for being so stupid into thinking Starbucks was good coffee.

    Starbucks improperly roasts coffee, and uses a mostly low quality canephora/robusta blend. Even Dunkin Donuts uses much higher quality beans and roasting, though their staff have a tendency to not properly clean the oils out of their machines.

  26. Truthie says:

    I actually think the robotic machines have resulted in less consistent coffee, although service is faster.

    When the baristas had to actually be trained how to make espresso and had to focus, most really did learn how to make a decent espresso and could consistently make a decent one.

    Now it’s basically the equivalent of using a soft-drink fountain machine and no one really puts any effort or focus into making the drink how it’s supposed to be made. Even though the machine does the work I am amazed how variable so many drinks are.

  27. TurboWagon00 says:

    @conformco: Darnit , ya beat me to it ;) Life imitates Art , indeed.

  28. disavow says:

    @boandmichele: Does convenience store cappuccino have actual caffeine? Serious question, I’ve always wondered since it uses a powder base.

  29. BigBoat says:
  30. BigBoat says:

    Gragh! Well played conformco.

  31. morganlh85 says:

    I used to work at a Starbucks, and at the store where I was the employees truly cared about the customers and quality of the product. That was a few years ago. Now Starbucks employees seem like they could be outdone by trained monkeys and never follow guidelines on how to make (and NOT make) drinks. It makes me angry.

    The other day an employee actually tried to correct ME about how I ordered my drink, when I was the correct one! It’s out of hand, and they DO need retrained.

    I truly believe it’s the fault of the automatic espresso machines being implemented in the stores; the employees really are no more competent than McDonald’s employees and just don’t care what they are doing.

  32. amypop says:

    I worked at Starbucks about 10 years ago and I was impressed with the fact that we had to go through quite a bit of training before being put in the store.

    What drives me crazy now, however, is how many baristas make the drink (latte/mocha/whatever) with all the syrups and milk and THEN pour the shot in after the fact. Aside from the fact that it does not dilute the mocha (especially in an iced mocha) and thus it’s all globby at the bottom, it makes for a bitter drink because the espresso and milk are not mixed at all. I’ve noticed this in several stores, it’s not just single place problem.

    Also — will this training be given to all Target Starbucks? Man, I’ve never gotten worse service and drinks.

  33. mindlessmagpie says:

    for any seattlelites reading, a local coffee shop (i believe caffe vita) is giving out one free drink to any customer who comes in while starbucks is closed for training that day. excellent customer service, and thier coffee is wicked-good too. and no, i’m not an employee.

  34. bdgbill says:

    They would be better off retraining the customers.

    Lesson One: Read the fucking menu BEFORE you get to the front of the line.

    Lesson Two: If there are fifty people behind you, maybe now isn’t the time to start asking a hundred questions about the content of the drinks.

    Lesson Three: Order and get the hell out of the way. Pick up your coffee DOWN THERE.

    Lesson Four: If you can’t control your kid, get the hell out! I don’t go to read the paper and relax at the McDonalds Playland. Starbucks used to be an oasis of peace and quiet in the city. Now soccer moms use it as a playground.

  35. jesseraub says:

    @Falconfire: There are only arabica beans used in Starbucks coffee. Learn your facts.

  36. rhombopteryx says:

    @PatrickIs2Smart:
    Seconded!

    A friend went into the Starbucks-branded Barnes & Noble with me and mentioned he wanted to try a new coffee drink but couldn’t decide which one. I told him to order whatever he usually ordered at a real Starbucks – it would be different there.

  37. kublaconsumer says:

    IMO Starbucks should retrain their staff on customer service. Over the last year I’ve noticed my local store has taken a turn towards total apathy. Just the other day I steered clear because I remembered the last time I went and the person who took my order and then gave me the coffee said not one word to me. If I walk up to the counter I expect some acknowledgment that the person is ready to take the order. Instead they just stared at me until I spoke. Wasn’t even busy in there. This place is one of the new ones that has a drive thru which I blame for the decline in service. Get rid of them! It literally like going in to a McDonalds now. Drive thru, stupid service, bla bla bla.

  38. wildhalcyon says:

    @Falconfire: Where I live, there’s a very limited amount of places I can obtain espresso. One of them happens to be Starbucks. Now, there is a smaller chain a little further away, but surprisingly enough they’re both more expensive and poorer in quality than the Starbucks that I frequent.

    Believe it or not, I do know quite a bit about coffee. I frequented the independent coffee houses in and around Seattle quite often, worked as a barista through college at one, and although I will happily admit that Starbucks coffee isn’t the best, its not that bad. A plain latte there is plenty suitable for consumption.

  39. Falconfire says:

    @jesseraub: Hate to break it to you but your wrong. Unless they recently changed and never mentioned it, their coffee is a blend thats predominately robusta because its cheap.

    You will find that even their website doesn’t mention anywhere the beans they use because of the fact its not pure arabica.

  40. Falconfire says:

    @jesseraub: Taking a look again, while they do mention having “single bean” coffees, their normal roasts are all blends which means they all are arabica and robusta.

  41. BII says:

    So where do the employees report for re-education?

    i kid, i kid, but seriously, unless they’re ripping out those aweful verissmo machines, no amount of “training” is going to do a damn bit of good. Those machines don’t make anything approaching esspresso.

  42. cshess says:

    As a coffee house proprietor, I’ve learned that the barista must care or the drink will be an ashtray in a cup, regardless of how well they’re trained.

  43. Snowblind says:

    @jesseraub:

    Would explain some of the taste issues. Good espresso blend contains some to add body to the blend.

    Automatic systems must still have the grinder calibrated to produce the right fineness to give a proper shot. Dosing, tamping, etc are all consistant, the grind is the variable.
    My guess is that they dont do that calibration, or they would not pull 8 second shots instead of 25 to 35.

  44. GothamGal says:

    @bdgbill:
    Agreed!

  45. Everyone is joking about this, but I really think it’s great that they are noticing the decline in their coffee standards, because it certainly is noticeable from the consumer end.

    Starbucks used to be a good source for a consistent cup of coffee, mixed with a straightforward atmosphere that you could depend on. And while it may not have been the best-tasting coffee (I actually like slightly over-roasted beans; i.e. burnt haha), and while it may not have been the coolest atmosphere, that’s what made them so successful so quickly.

    The fact that I could be in New York and be in Los Angeles and get the same drink made to precise specifications so that it tasted exactly the same was a big deal to me, as I like the consistency where everything else in my life is so much more chaotic.

    Not so much anymore, however. Now I I go into a Starbucks and I have to beg them to put three FULL pumps of that concentrated chai syrup into my grande chai latte, instead of 10 mini pumps. I’m sure I sound like a jerk, but for $4 a cup, I kind of want it to be the drink I expect.

    So while this may seems like a PR stunt, and while the vast majority of employees will think they know everything already and be so “too cool for school” that they don’t even listen to the trainer, it will at the very least send a signal to both employee and customer alike.

    So there you have it. Let it rip, o’ opinionated and often angry online community. I’d like to see where this goes. :-)

  46. BTW, to all those up there who are questioning it, Starbucks in fact only uses arabica beans, even in its blends. That’s a fairly easy fact to check.

    Also, sorry for the grammatical gaffes in my previous post.

  47. Falconfire says:

    @Gilbert: Then find it, their website doesnt say it anywhere, even in their FAQ, and Coffeegeek did a test of their beans which proved it was not in fact Arabica.

  48. Snowblind says:

    @Falconfire:

    They hint in lots of ways:

    Starbucks buys only the highest quality arabica coffees available, beans whose flavor develops fully through the Starbucks Roast

    [www.starbucks.com]

    However, that statement does not preclude buying Robust of any quality. It just says they are picky about the Arabica.

  49. Pop Socket says:

    My question is how many of each store’s employees are getting trained and are they all getting it done on the clock. This military style stand-down sure seems like a waste of resources.

  50. clevershark says:

    When I lived in the NYC area I definitely remembered which Starbucks places made the coffee correctly (e.g. Bryant Park), and which ones didn’t (the one just south from the Port Authority always made weak coffee). Even now (in Montreal) there are some SBs I don’t like because they make the “bold” coffee too weak.

  51. Dathmar says:

    I wish they would go back to the old machines. You can tell the difference easily between the two machine types. I use to live in Seattle and I would always opt for Tully’s coffee over Starbucks because Tully’s used the better machine.

  52. @Dathmar: ABSOLUTELY.

  53. jesseraub says:

    @Falconfire: It’s only arabica. I can guarantee it.

    “Blends” mean they use beans from different growing regions. As in, beans from Latin America and the Asia/Pacific area.

    [www.starbucks.com]

    There’s also no coffegeek mention of your taste test.

    Plus, it would be retarded to not use arabica. Starbucks has been roasting coffee since the 70s using only arabica beans. Using arabica is an absolute basis for mimimum quality. Most shit roasters like Hills Bros. and Maxwell House only use arabica these days.

    [www.starbucks.com]

  54. morganlh85 says:

    @Dathmar: This is very true. With the automatic machines you cannot easily make adjustments to improve the taste of the coffee. In fact, since most new employees never used the manual machines, they wouldn’t even know what a good shot looks or tastes like. And I believe this is the cause of the decline of Starbucks.

  55. hilighter says:

    @Falconfire: Are you making this up as you go along? Nothing on coffeegeek, and bean info is pretty easy to find on starbucks.com, it says the ONLY us Arabica beans.

  56. iqag says:

    I agree with someone that a big cause for the decline in both service and quality is the introduction of drive-throughs.
    As for convenience stores and Dunkin’ – even if we accepted that it was better beans, they leave the coffee for hours, and never seem to clean the machines right. The same problem afflicts the Starbucks licensees. Everyone should just be grateful that Sbux never went for full out franchising. In many parts of the country there are also independent coffee shops with coffee well below Starbucks’ consistent corporate mediocrity. If they can get back to their previous no-great-but-at-laest-predictable standard through some re-education, I’m all for it.

  57. meneye says:

    @Chols: I know what you mean. There are three in a plaza near my house. THREE. One Target, one standalone, and one in Barnes and Noble.

  58. miles85 says:

    Although it definitely does seem a bit like a PR stunt, you have to admire Schultz’s efforts to turn the company around. It’s going to be a long time before we’ll be able to judge how successful he has been, but it seems like he is genuinely trying to improve the customer experience — while racking up some good PR in the process. Kudos to him for trying, at least.

  59. StarWhores says:

    About time!
    Yes I needlessly spend my money there..
    How many times in a week can your Americano
    be made incorrectly and the price vary each transaction?
    Ummm… 5. 5X in a week. They have a beverage manual
    that spells everything out. Here’s hoping Mr. Schultz can light a fire under his Baristas arses’.

  60. sibertater says:

    @jesseraub: AMEN, fellow partner! Our most expensive drink is a Venti White Mocha and I think it tops out at $4.70 here. Now, you can bitch all you want but it’s not $6 unless you’re high-maintenance and add extra shots, syrup and soy.

    That is all.

  61. sibertater says:

    @meneye: There is only 1 by you, then. The ones in stores are basically owned by the stores, they are not corporate.

  62. sibertater says:

    @Falconfire: So then you must work for a competitor and really hate us to slander us so…or is this libel? It’s so sketchy on the internet these days.

  63. dazzlezak says:

    I only drink “coffee flavored coffee” -Dennis Leary.

    The U.S. Military no longer uses Napalm, Starbucks must use it to roast its brewed coffee.

    People here in Las Vegas argue over the best coffee/donut store, but I agree Tim Hortons-which we don’t have- is the best.

  64. Elijah-M says:

    @cunnij98:Starbucks COFFEE costs the same as the coffee you get anywhere else (unless you’re getting coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, which is more expensive). The espresso drinks cost more because they are made to order, and require more expensive ingredients. These two facts are ridiculously obvious to anyone with a triple digit IQ and rudimentary critical thinking skills. But whatever.

    It seems that every time there’s a post about Starbucks here, half the comments come from people who never actually go there. Post away – it’s the Internet, after all, you do what you want – but what is the point exactly? You don’t like Starbucks, and most likely never will. So just don’t go there and move on. If not going there gives you a sense of smug self-satisfaction, great. But plastering that smugness all over the Internet – and backing it up with things that only exist in your imagination – really just make you look stupid.

    @Falconfire: If I’m not Mistaken, you have proliferated this abject lie about the robusta beans a few times here, and you have been shot down every single time. Does this ever get old?

  65. swagv says:

    Of course, Mr. Schultz’s real solution, if he truly is committed to returning a “quality” association with the Starbucks brand, is to close at least 6,900 of those some 7,100 stores — never to reopen them. Then fire about 130,000 of the least skilled of their 135,000 employees. Replace their superautomatic machines with something that requires more skill and could actually qualify an employee for a barista competition. Encourage their staff to enter barista championships to elevate their commitment to the craft. Cut off 95% of their coffee suppliers who they buy in great bulk for consistency, focusing on a more select collection of elite bean growers. Give more than lip service to their feel-good green marketing, given that less than 3% of their bean supply is actually certified Fair Trade: enter more Direct Trade relationships with growers. Establish freshness controls that allow them to post roasting dates on their retail packages of beans, and educate the public on how fresh coffee is a lot more like fresh bread than anyone in the lay public has honestly ever considered.

    In other words: a snowball’s chance in hell.

  66. XTC46 says:

    @Pop Socket: if it is mandatory training, it is done on the clock. And good training is almost never a waste of resources.

  67. damook says:

    Funny, but to the person talking about dark roast…you all do realize that dark roast coffee actually has less caffeine than regular, mediaum or light roast right?

  68. larrys1690 says:

    As a former Starbucks employee, I think the drive thru stores are a bad idea. The store I worked in had enough people working during a shift to cover drinks for either the front counter OR the drive through window, but not both. Drink orders got mixed up sometimes and we usually had one person making all the frozen drinks and another pulling all the shots for both lines at once.
    Personally, I only go to the stores that have counter service only…

  69. lavalint says:

    As a current Starbucks employee I’m excited to have the retraining. I’m in Canada so we won’t get retrained until March. I’m very passionate about my job and it’s such a shame that there’s so much apathy amongst other employees. I think it will be a good thing to reinforce what we’ve learned in our Barista training and to get everyone on the same page. I totally agree with the Drive-Thru comment. I’ve been saying this for a long time that there shouldn’t be Drive-Thru stores. We get so many customers from the DT store asking us to remake they’re beverages. It’s sad. Oh man I’m such a keener :P

  70. dieman says:

    Luckily we have something like 6+ options other than starbucks near campus, so I get to happily ignore them while stopping by Dunn Bros or Caribou.

  71. gryftir says:

    I actually had a long talk Saturday night with a San Francisco based Starbucks Employee about this. Apparently at his starbucks they already are doing what the training will teach them to do. He thinks his store was part of a test run, since other nearby starbucks weren’t using the system.

    Anyway apparently the big changes he mentioned will be using smaller containers to make the drinks, along with a filter designed to make the expresso taste more earthy. It used to be Starbucks employees would make a bunch of drinks at once, but now they are focusing on one drink at a time.

    The employee told me the coffee tastes better, but both the filter and smaller containers make it take quite a bit longer to make. This probably won’t be a big deal unless there are a bunch of customers at the same time. If all you care about is getting a caffeine fix quickly on your coffee break, you may be less then happy. On the other hand, he said it does really taste noticeably better.

  72. takeitout says:

    I just got done with the meeting myself.Utterly pointless the whole idea is make a quality drink which is awesome but sacrifice speed of service. Which means customers wait longer for drinks. That is ridiculous people should not have to wait longer they will only get more pissed off at us. They need to focus on getting better management so people actually get trained right from the begining and want to do things right. But the mediocrity starts at the top and trickles down to the under payed baristas who don’t give a crap and nothing will change. You will still get a mediocre beverage for a ridiculous price.