Who Benefits Most From Starbucks Closure?

What Do You Think Will Come of This PR Frenzy?

By Published on .

Starbucks is closing its door from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. this evening for a little bit of continuing education for its cashiers baristas.

According to Howard Schultz, "The comprehensive educational curriculum for all U.S. store partners will provide a renewed focus on espresso standards that will help ensure the exceptional quality of every beverage." Will it matter?

Obviously, the move is meant to prove that Schultz was serious when wanted to remedy perceived ills at the chain. Many long-time fans had been complaining about a drop in quality. It's questionable whether a three-and-a-half hour training session is actually going to improve the skillset of Starbucks employees, but you can bet 20 Duetto Dollars that there will be people sauntering into your office tomorrow swearing that their espresso tastes soooo much better than it did two days ago.

In my opinion, it's a brilliant marketing stunt (but mine isn't the only opinion). And if anyone takes offense at this being called a stunt rather than a concerted effort to retrain employees, tough. As someone in the office pointed out, Starbucks ain't exactly open 24 hours a day, so some post-closing or pre-opening training could have been in order. Do it over a span of a few weeks after close and take the time to focus on things that really matter. But hey, this not only gets the chain a load of free press, it probably makes for slightly happier employees.

It could also make for temporarily happier competitors. Dunkin Donuts jumped at the chance to offer discount java. But it's not just offering coffee. It's offering discounts in the area it most lags behind Starbucks -- specialty drinks. The discounted beverages include "lattes, cappuccinos and espresso drinks."

Biggby Coffee, the Michigan chain formerly known as Beaners, is one-upping Dunkin' Donuts by offering its coffee completely free during the Starbucks Blackout.

But as I said, mine isn't the only opinion on this matter. One dissenter in the office dubs the move stupid: "It fesses up to problems with the Starbucks experience, which can be a good thing. But any one who's spent any time wasting away in 15-minute lines for coffee, watching in horror at the collective incompetence, inefficiency and, often, rudeness of the baristas will know that that training session alone won't do much to fix things. So it seems like an empty stunt and one that any number of rivals are piggybacking on."

So what do our readers think? (And if any of you Power150 bloggers want to stop blogging about Facebook and twitter and blogs long enough to consider this topic, let me know!)

Is this a smart move? Will it be better for Starbucks or better for competitors?

UPDATE! Some Power 150 Reaction: Todd Andrlik says Dunkin Donuts move "brilliant"; AdFreak's David Gianatasio manages to survive the outage; Larissa Fair at The Buzz Bin wonders if it's too little, too late but adds that it's "just good PR"; Andy Sernovitz wonders what you'd do; George Parker says it's the biggest scam since Second Life and proceeds to curse up a storm (which is why we love him).
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