Starbucks, the brand which pioneered the modern global coffee culture, has had yet another of the rethinks which have become such a notable part of its recent business.
This time, the chain is to abandon its policy of stores all looking the same.
Instead, a new ‘global store design strategy' will bring in a new policy in which each site will reflect the character of the surrounding neighborhood. As stores are built and renovated, Starbucks will now source materials and employ craftsmen on a localised basis, and will incorporate reused and recycled elements where possible.
The new store design strategy features specific long-term goals related to energy and water conservation, recycling and ‘green' construction.
The brand wants to derive 50% of the energy used in company-operated stores from renewable sources by next year, reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and make stores 25% more energy-efficient, again by next year; and ensure that its entire cup supply will be reusable or recyclable by 2015, with recycling and waste-collection facilities available instore at the same time.
The reference to water conservation probably relates to worldwide media coverage earlier this year of what was claimed to be the company's policy of leaving taps running inside its sites.
The chain recently aroused international attention by opening new stores under entirely different names, including some very close to its existing branded stores in Seattle, the company's home town.
Starbucks now says that these new stores typify the new approach: "many of the materials used are warm and rustic, reflecting the look and feel of a workmen's commissary. The columns, floor and ceiling were preserved from existing buildings; the wood in the cabinets was ‘re-purposed' from fallen trees in the Seattle area, the leather on the face of the bar is scrap leather obtained from shoe and automobile factories, and a community table came from a local restaurant."
The managing director of Starbucks' UK operation, Darcy Willson-Rymer, is reported to have acknowledged that rapid expansion was achieved at the expense of character. Now he wants individual stores to be ‘locally-relevant', while retaining the standard production of food and drinks.
The corporate business in the UK has issued one of its quite typical Starbucks-speak statements, saying that its new design work is ‘to provide our customers with a great experience and the perfect beverage, using the highest quality coffee, every time they visit us' and that it is ‘setting the stage for a reinvigorated customer experience'.
By Ian Boughton