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Has Starbucks Lost Touch?

I read, as many did, about the Starbucks caused arrest of two men in Philadelphia.  Talk about a PR nightmare...but that's just another example of how Starbucks, like so many other companies today, are losing touch with their customers and their reason for being.

Starbucks coffee shops were designed and built so people could linger, hang out, meet friends. For many, the locations are often known as  "Conference Room S",  a term once shared by a former Starbucks executive who many years ago  lamented that was where so many people from many companies would go to meet when all the conference rooms were booked, hence the nickname. That's why what happened in Philly, where I grew up and spent the first 28 years of my life, is not an isolated situation. It's one that like the United airline mishaps with the Doctor being dragged of the plane or other airlines similar mishandling of situations, becoming more commonplace.  Staff are no longer aware of the brand and what it stands for or stood for.

Yesterday I went to the new Starbucks Reserve on La Brea. Much like the Reserve and Roastery in Seattle, the Reserve is a far more interesting, different and true coffee lover's mecca. But much like the Philadelphia staff's misread of why the two people were there, Starbucks comes across as having lost touch. I pulled in and immediately saw signs of a 20 minute parking lot restriction. That may be good for people who want to grab and go, much like a drive through, but I wanted to enjoy a different and finer grade of Starbucks and not be doing that while driving. Given the residential neighborhood, the fact that it was also Sunday, there wasn't much chance of finding on street parking. 20 minutes I thought..not a lot of time to enjoy the place. I was right.

Here's a beautiful retail environment, with chairs and small tables, a back area for people to work in a communal fashion, and very comfortable chairs.  It's designed to make you want you to linger and enjoy your coffee and likely go for a second cup. I was suitably impressed with the space, the abundance of natural light, the side by side chairs, the task oriented lighting and yes, the Google Wi-Fi. It took about ten minutes to get to the single cashier, but the assortment of coffees, including Jamaican Blue Mountain, which I ordered, was more like a local coffee shop than Starbucks we have all experienced. Having been so impressed in Seattle, I knew what to expect, but hey, this is L.A.  After paying I wandered around remarking to myself how well thought out the Reserve was designed. After about seven or eight minutes my name was called and I grabbed my coffee. I sat down and started to sip the piping hot, freshly ground and just made coffee. I needed to let it cool a bit, and by the time I was ready to drink it, I realized my 20 minutes were up so I left....coffee in hand.

I never really did enjoy my coffee. Just like the two men in Philadelphia didn't either as I can't really hold a coffee, and drive a five speed manual shift car.

Would I go back to the Reserve on La Brea. Maybe in an Uber....but candidly, I can find local coffee shops with an abundance of parking, without a 20 minute limit closer to home, and with coffee that's as good or better, and who also do Chem-X, French Press, Pour Overs and more, like the Reserve does. And since those usually take even longer to deliver than my fresh brewed drip coffee, I guess at the end of the day those 20 minute signs are there as reminders so people order but don't hang out in Starbucks....just ask the guys in Philly what doing that did for them.

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