Starbucks has finally introduced its new Mastrena espresso machine to British stores, but although it continues to talk about a ‘state-of-the-art' machine, it remains coy about what the equipment actually does.
Those who have used it say that it is essentially a bean-to-cup which grinds ‘on demand' for every shot, and automatically monitors the performance of every shot and recalibrates when necessary.
What is known is that the Mastrena will account for 65% of the production of the manufacturer, Thermoplan of Switzerland, a family-run company which has taken on 40 staff to cope. Although Starbucks trumpeted at the end of August that its first two machines were now on site, Elaine Higginson of First Choice told us: "There are actually more than that installed in the field now, and they're working extremely well."
The American press reports that Starbucks managers recently travelled to Switzerland and threw a mountain-top party for Thermoplan's 210 staff members. "They told us that Starbucks wouldn't be where they are without us", reported Thermoplan managing director Adrian Steiner.
Meanwhile, Starbucks has appointed Darcy Wilson-Rymer, formerly of its European operation, to replace Phil Broad as the head of its UK and Irish business. Mr Broad is reported to have stepped down for personal reasons.
The Wall St Journal reports another about-turn by Starbucks in the US. After top man Howard Schultz decreed earlier this year that cooked sandwiches would be phased out because the aroma worked against that of coffee, the brand has now decided instead to change its recipes to minimise the smell. A spokesman said: "No, we're not reversing our strategy. It's an evolution."
By Ian Boughton