Starbucks Pumpkin Spice products return to grocery stores

Starbucks is giving consumers the opportunity to have a taste of fall before the season officially arrives. The Seattle-based coffee giant made its pumpkin spice product line available in grocery stores at a time when a growing number of consumers are drinking coffee at home, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic. The lineup includes its pumpkin spice flavored creamer, K-Cup coffee pods, ground coffee and other flavored drinks. The company has also debuted new products including a maple pecan flavored coffee and salted caramel mocha flavored creamer. However, Starbucks has not yet revealed when its famed Pumpkin Spice Latte will return to menus. The release of the products comes as the pandemic, which led to widespread lockdowns and forced restaurants and cafes to shut down for prolonged periods, has forced a growing number of coffee drinkers to consume their cup of joe within the confines of their home. Starbucks said its U.S. market share in packaged coffee grew 21% in dollar sales in its fiscal third quarter, outpacing the coffee category as a whole, which grew 13% in the same period. A survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Nestlé in April indicated that third of respondents said they were brewing more coffee at home now than before they were under quarantine, the Daily Meal reported. Still, some companies that performed well over the lockdown orders did so because of how well they catered to the adjusting times. For instance, J.M. Smucker Co., which makes Folgers, Dunkin’, and Cafe Bustelo coffee, performed well through May, according to Intelligencer, which noted that the company was selling more coffee to more households to brew at home.

Its the little things…

Starbucks extends catastrophe pay to employees until May 3, says lobbies will remain closed through then

Starbucks has announced it will be extending temporary benefits to its employees through at least May 3, including catastrophe pay for those who cannot–or choose not to–be at work amid the ongoing coronavirus health crisis. The coffee chain’s temporary benefits for employees was originally set to expire on April 19. “As we continue to navigate COVID-19 together, I want to first take a moment to share my deepest gratitude and appreciation for all of you,” wrote Rossann Williams, the executive vice president and president of U.S. company-operated business and Canada, in a letter to employees.” You’ve led through an unbelievable amount of change these last few weeks and have come together in deeply human ways to support each other and our communities, including our brave front-line responders and health care workers.” In the letter, Williams outlines the continuing steps the company plans to take to protect the health of its employees, or “partners,” by extending all COVID-19 benefits through the beginning of May. Employees who are sick, taking care of loved ones, or simply feel more comfortable self-isolating at home are eligible for catastrophe pay through May 3. Partners who choose to work will be receiving Service Pay, or an additional $3 per hour. “We will continue other temporarily expanded benefits for partners, whether they are working a shift or not, like childcare support through Care@Work and our expanded Food/Beverage Benefit and discounts,” Williams said. Other resources, including mental health services and the company’s CUP Fund (a financial resource started by partners in 1998, for workers to use “when facing an unexpected financial hardship”) would also remain available. Starbucks further confirmed that its stores, which are currently operating on a “to go” model and prohibiting customers from remaining in its lobbies or seating areas, would extend the closure of its lobbies through at least May 3. “After May 3, we do intend to slowly begin to adjust back to more normal operating models and benefits plans, recognizing that the COVID-19 situation in each community is still incredibly different and fluid,” Williams said. Also through May 3, Starbucks is offering a free tall coffee — hot or iced — to frontline workers who visit its locations. The Starbucks Foundation announced it would also be giving over $3 million to support relief efforts, including a $1 million donation to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund in support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and $1 million to Give2Asia in support of the region’s front-line medical workers, among other donations.

Starbucks offering free coffee to front-line responders amid coronavirus outbreak

Starbucks may have drastically modified service in response to the coronavirus outbreak, but its operational locations are still hoping to fuel front-line responders. On Wednesday, Starbucks announced that it would be offering a free tall coffee — hot or iced — to front-line workers through May 3, adding that the move was directly inspired by employees who were already finding ways to give back to their local communities. “Over the last few weeks, partners have found ways to support those who are keeping our communities safe – particularly responders on the front line of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Starbucks wrote in a news release shared Wednesday. “Building on this commitment, Starbucks announced it will offer free coffee to frontline workers until May 3.” In the past few weeks, Starbucks said it has observed employees (or “partners”) helping out their local first responders and healthcare workers by organizing deliveries, coffee donations, or even just sending messages of support. “I am inspired by our Starbucks store partners around the world who proudly wear the green apron and who are rising to the occasion. They demonstrate our resilience and our commitment to the communities we serve,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in an open letter to employees shared on Sunday. In the same release announcing its deal for front-line responders, Starbucks further confirmed that it had donated $500,000 total to Operation Gratitude and Direct Relief, two organizations that work to help those same responders. Earlier this month, Starbucks locations in the U.S. had closed all seating areas to customers in response to the growing global outbreak of COVID-19, while still allowing for carryout, drive-thru and delivery options. On March 20, the company announced it would be restricting all ordering to drive-thru and delivery — and closing off cafes to walk-in customers — at all company-owned locations. The exception, however, being Starbucks locations “in and around” health centers or hospitals, to continue to serve medical workers. Starbucks had also announced that employees would still be eligible to receive 30 days of pay, whether they were able to work or not.

Kudos to Starbucks for supporting our first responders like this.  For more of this story, click on the text above.

Chick-fil-A ranks first in new ‘brand intimacy’ study, knocks Starbucks from top spot

When it comes to fast food, diners are most emotional about Chick-fil-A. That’s the big takeaway from a 2019 Brand Intimacy Study released by marketing agency MBLM, which measured customers’ fondness and emotional bonds toward the fast-food brands they “use and love.” The study results, released Wednesday, indicate that Chick-fil-A has achieved the strongest emotional connection with customers of any of the 15 fast-food brands studied, and has effectively knocked Starbucks out of the top spot, where it sat for the previous two years. “Chick-fil-A has gradually risen to the top of the fast-food industry in our annual study,” said Mario Natarelli, a managing partner with MBLM, in a press release. “The brand is able to connect with a wide range of customers and we expect it to continue to perform well in years to come. Others in the industry can learn from the leader in creating more robust, stronger connections with their patrons.” Other brands customers connected with strongly were Dunkin’ (No. 2) and Starbucks (No. 3). McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Subway, Wendy’s, Burger King, Chipotle and KFC rounded out the top ten. In order to arrive at its results, MBLM polled 6,200 customers in the United States, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates who earn over $35,000 per year and fall between 18 and 64 years of age. The brands also were rated by several different criteria, including how respondents felt about each in terms of indulgence (“centered around moments of pampering and gratification” that can be either occasional or frequent) and nostalgia (“memories of the past and the warm, poignant feelings”) among others. Among the study’s other interesting findings, Chick-fil-A was also found to be the favored choice for both men and women of any age, but was “particularly strong” with women and millennials. McDonald’s, on the other hand, was actually determined to be the preferred brand among those earning over $100,000. The MBLM study is just one of several the agency uses to rank the overall “brand intimacy” from companies in of a number of industries, including media, automotive, technology, travel and more. Currently, of all brands, Disney is ranked the highest. Chick-fil-A is ranked 10th overall.

Congrats to Chick-fi-A!!

Seattle repeals ‘head tax’ after backlash from Amazon, Starbucks

The Seattle City Council on Tuesday voted 7-2 to repeal a “head tax” on the city’s largest employers, granting a surprise victory to corporate giants such as Amazon and Starbucks just weeks after the council unanimously approved the measure. The vote took place at a special meeting called by Council President Bruce Harrell and six other members of the nine-person Seattle City Council. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan also supported a repeal. The council struggled to conduct the vote at the meeting’s conclusion as protestors chanted “stop the repeal,” drowning out councilmembers as they attempted to cast their ballot. Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, who cast one of two votes opposing the repeal, said the council was “bending to big business” and referred to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as an “enemy” of Seattle. Originally passed on May 14, the measure required companies with annual revenue of $20 million or more to contribute $275 per employee annually toward efforts to combat widespread homelessness in Seattle. At the time, the city council said the “head tax” would raise about $50 million per year toward the development of affordable housing, homeless shelters and other outreach efforts. “Today’s vote by the Seattle City Council to repeal the tax on job creation is the right decision for the region’s economic prosperity,” Amazon vice president and spokesman Drew Herdener said in a statement. “We are deeply committed to being part of the solution to end homelessness in Seattle and will continue to invest in local nonprofits like Mary’s Place and FareStart that are making a difference on this important issue.” The head tax drew widespread opposition from local business advocates and several major corporations, including Amazon, Seattle’s largest employer. Critics argued the tax would discourage investment in the city and place an undue burden on companies that were already paying a fair share of taxes. The measure’s supporters said large employers should pay the head tax because their presence in the city contributed to the rising cost of living. “We welcome this move by the City Council and believe the best path forward is to implement the reforms recommended two years ago by the city’s own homelessness expert,” Starbucks senior vice president of public affairs John Kelly said in a statement. “Starbucks remains a committed partner to government officials, business leaders, and family service providers. Together we must work to bring families inside, once and for all.” “No Tax on Jobs,” an organization that advocated for a repeal of the tax, told GeekWire Tuesday that it had amassed more than 45,000 signatures on a petition calling for the measure to be considered in a public referendum if it was not overturned. Amazon and Starbucks, which is also headquartered in Seattle, each provided funding to the organization. The measure would have cost Amazon an estimated $12.4 million each year. The e-commerce giant employs roughly 45,000 workers in Seattle. Last month, Amazon and Starbucks criticized the head tax in the hours after its passage. Other large businesses in the area, including Nordstrom, Boeing and Microsoft, did not comment publicly.

Glad to see this silly “head tax” passed originally by a bunch of extreme liberal/socialist Democrat politicians…was repealed under pressure from businesses in King County, WA that employ tens of thousands of workers.

Starbucks Raises Prices After Opening Tables, Bathrooms to Non-Customers

Starbucks boosted coffee prices across most U.S. locations this week, just days after opening its shops and bathrooms to non-paying guests. On Tuesday, customers of the coffee giant saw the price of a 12-ounce cup of java jump from $1.95 to $2.15, while some locations raised coffee prices by ten cents. “This price adjustment was not related to last week’s store closures and trainings,” a spokesperson for Starbucks claimed. Starbucks closed 8,000 of its company-owned locations in the U.S. on May 29 to put its baristas through “racial bias training.” Starbucks adopted an open bathroom policy, dropping a requirement for customers to buy before they use the facilities, following the arrest of two black men that turned into a public relations nightmare for the coffee chain.

Starnes: Remember when Starbucks just served over-priced, burnt coffee?

If you are in the mood for a high priced cup of coffee that tastes burnt – you’ll have to go somewhere other than Starbucks during a three-hour period Tuesday afternoon. More than 8,000 shops are shuttering for anti-bias training – an ill-conceived attempt to restore Starbucks’ tarnished liberal image. Last month, two black men were arrested in Philadelphia after they refused to leave one of the coffee chain’s stores and one was denied use of the restroom. The men, who said they were waiting for a friend, were sitting quietly but had not purchased so much as a latte. They were taking up space meant for paying customers. While police arrested the two men for trespassing, they were later released without charges and both the police and Starbucks apologized to them. Starbucks had every right to ask those men to order a beverage or food or leave the shop. It’s a place of business, not a public park. Nevertheless, the social justice warriors pounced – accusing the folks who wear the green aprons of racial profiling and discrimination. Instead of standing its ground, Starbucks threw their baristas under the roaster and offered a profuse apology. “Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome – the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong,” CEO Kevin Johnson wrote in a meandering mea culpa. “Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.” Starbucks vowed to treat every customers with “respect and dignity” – even if they don’t purchase an expensive cup of their bitter java. Tuesday’s anti-bias training features appearances by company executives along with the rapper named Common. Baristas are being encouraged to “open up about implicit biases and stereotypes in encountering people of color, gender or other identities.” Starbucks has no one to blame for this fiasco but itself. For decades Starbucks has been using its stores to promote social justice, but now it’s come back to bite ’em in the coffee bean. Remember back in 2015 when Starbucks ordered baristas to strike up conversations about race relations with customers? “So that’s one venti Veranda Blend Blonde Roast with extra cream. May I have your name, sir?” “Yes, thank you. It’s Todd.” “So, Tom – I’m curious – do you have a problem with Dark Roast?” “My name is Todd. Wait. What?” “And Ted, based on your defensive posture, I’m sensing some privilege, too. We can help with that.” From that day forward I began brewing Community Coffee. The beans are roasted by a family-owned company based in Louisiana. It’s a good cup of coffee, it costs less and best of all – no political agenda. There’s a lesson we can all learn from this Starbucks debacle. When a coffee house serves up a piping hot cup of politics – well – it’s going to end up frothing everybody’s latte.

Well said, Todd..  Veteran culture warrior Todd Starnes is responsible for that witty piece.  What Todd left out of this story was the back story.  Starbucks had a policy of asking loiterers to leave if they don’t something…and if they refuse, then the mgr is (or was) directed to call the police.  That’s exactly what happened here.  The mgr followed company policy to the letter.  It had NOTHING to do with race; which is how the dominantly liberal mainstream media has portrayed this story…and Starbucks has allowed it to be characterized as such.  So, instead of standing their perfectly reasonable ground, they threw their mgr under the bus, and bent over and grabbed their corporate ankles with this ridiculous mea culpa.  How embarrassing for their employees!  Anyway..  Todd is spot-on about Starbucks coffee..  It’s overpriced and bitter.  It’s the scourge of the coffee shop industry (or the “Borg” for you Trekies).  But, people go there in droves like zombies.  In the interest of full disclosure, I sometimes find myself biting my lip (or pinching my nose) and going in real quick, as they’re everywhere.  But, I prefer the ma and pa shops that are cheaper and better.  So, support your local coffee shop and avoid the silliness that is Starbucks.