Four bucks is dumb, claims a McDonald’s poster. 7 out of ten people prefer Costa, says another rival. Poor old Starbucks is suffering: 9% drop in Q1 2009 sales, 300 branch closures, job losses, whilst McCafés boom and Costas grow.
The reality is that Starbucks stood still whilst others moved: McDonald’s diversified, offered the café products but cheaper, even selling themselves on ethics (fair trade arabica beans, no less), convenience (no surprise here, but free wi-fi is a nice extra) and comfort (refurbished restaurants).
Costa went east, into China, India and the Middle East as Starbucks invaded its London home. Others (Caribou, Peet’s, Green Mountain…) have become greener, comfier or simply tastier. (Starbucks actually came bottom of a recent taste test.)
Still, I find it very hard to feel sorry for them.