Sunday, June 9, 2013

Listen Up Starbucks- US vs UK!

I have always been a huge advocator of Starbucks and the most loyal customer imaginable.  At the age of 24, I have been drinking Starbucks since I was 14 years old- a whole decade! It was always more than just a fabulous coffee to me, it was the experience that came with it.  I have made countless great memories at Starbucks.  For instance, while I lived in Kentucky my mom and I would drive 2 hours after she got home from a long day of work to enjoy quality time together and we chose to have it over a white chocolate mocha.  My friends and I would meet at Starbucks for a morning coffee or venture there just because we were craving a cinnamon dolce latte. I can't even begin to tell you how many hours I spent there studying whilst I was in college either. 


Not only did I become a regular, I got to know the staff who were always incredible.  In Hawaii (Oahu-Hawaii Kai Towne Center) I would stop by every single morning on my way to school. The staff would absolutely make my day before it ever even began. They would always make my iced coconut latte or iced cinnamon dolce to absolute perfection and also did it with an amazing attitude and smile.  Starbucks became a place of comfort for me and I even loved it so much that  Starbucks and their staff were even incorporated into my partner's marriage proposal!

During my time in Hawaii where I attended college, I approximately spent at least a grand total of   $11,000 on coffee alone in only 5 years!! I am purely flabbergasted at that high number. Instead, I could have bought with that money-  5 Louis Vuitton Bags and 10 pairs of Louboutin heels or even a car or a Rolex for that matter!  I hope this shows how much a Starbucks experience means to me and the impact it has had on my life. It was the only way it could start my day.  I chose Starbucks and having had the best experiences, particularly in Hawaii, it truly disheartens me that the UK standard is the antithesis of that.

I have come to the conclusion that the standard of coffee and service that is provided in the U.S. simply does not exist here in the UK where I currently reside.  I have indulged in many locations across the globe from Hawaii to Paris, London and so on. It's fair to say that I've had more than my fair share of tasting Starbucks. The standard should be 100% the same across the globe.  Of course, they will have drinks catered to each market, however, Starbucks UK needs to be up to par in terms of quality that the U.S. offers. 

At least 80% of the time when I order a Starbucks in the UK, being very hopeful it will be a taste of home, I am simply let down and feel very upset that as a paying customer, we are offered differing standards depending on the country you're in. To say that I am upset is even an understatement- I feel personally offended. There has been a few occasions where I have literally thrown my drink in the bin before leaving the Starbucks store. I may as well have flushed my money down the toilet. Therefore this is why that since living in the UK, I have chosen the competitors over Starbucks (e.g. Costa and Cafe Nero) any day as they provide a better choice of flavours, a much stronger brew and an overall better experience.  

Drinking the competitor- Costa!

Listen up Starbucks UK, from the standpoint of an avid coffee drinker and Starbucks lover, I personally think that these changes below need to be implemented:

  • More flavours- Please bring in Cinnamon dolce, and  coconut all year around. Caramel, hazelnut and vanilla are getting so old and very unpalatable.  During Christmas time, the drinks are great but as soon as the holidays go, so do the good drinks.  Are we supposed to only enjoy a variety in flavor for a few months out of the year?

  • More friendly staff, I know culturally Americans are known to be more enthusiastic and friendly, however this is an American company. The staff often just try and get you in and out as soon as possible, and when they ask my name for my drink order, it is wrong the majority of the time. For example, my name is not Willy!!

  • For iced drinks, simply more ice! A mere 2 ice-cubes does not get it, especially in the summer time.

  • The coffee brew needs to be stronger. Everytime I order a flavored latte, it tastes of flavoured milk. I can rarely taste coffee without having to order an extra shot and most of the time that extra shot is burnt. 

I know that I may come across as a typical American demanding princess, but in my defence, my partner is British and after having the American Starbucks experience, she completely agrees with me. I think that it is a shame that I have to go elsewhere in the UK, and long for the days I can get a great coffee at a UK Starbucks location. 

Step it up Starbucks UK! 

Meet the great standards that all paying customers should receive, otherwise it won't only be me that is looking elsewhere!

Whitney K. Bacon
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  1. Great write up. And you don't come off as a demanding princess. You were and always will be one of my favorite customers that I remember from my Starbucks days. You were kind, polite and very patient.

    So if you're bothered by the service at another location, it's probably saying something.

    With that being said it's disappointing to read that the standard is not globally universal for Starbucks. Especially considering all the training modules I remember having to go through that always stressed the importance of consistency both in beverage quality and in customer service.

    Thanks for the shout out, Whitney. The Hawaii Kai Starbucks crew will never ever forget you.

  2. Awwww thank you so much! This means a lot to me as every one of you were some of the kindest and best people I knew. My day always started off great thanks to you guys!!

    I miss Hawaii so much goodness me! Hopefully back next year back for just a visit and would love to see you all! :)

  3. i used to work for Starbucks in the US, and now that i am in the UK- it's so sad. I could go back there and do it my damn self if i could.

  4. I know this is an old post, but as a British person I just want to say:

    1) Poor service in general in the UK is not limited to Starbucks but is everywhere (hotels, restaurants etc.). It's a cultural difference as you said. Mostly British people go to Starbucks in Britain so that's the service we expect, poor as it is :(

    2) Iced drinks are not popular because of the cold/wet climate, so people don't care to buy them and so there isn't much expectation to begin with.

    3) Brits generally prefer weak/milky coffee, since it's a nation that traditionally drinks tea which is not as strong as coffee. Cultural difference :)

  5. hello, I was googling the differences between UK and US Starbucks and found your blog. I'm so sorry you've been having a poor time at the Starbucks you've visited across the UK, and I just wanted to comment. I'm from a UK Starbucks and love working for the company, so it's really sad when I read such a poor review!

    I've thought about what you say about the coffee tasting different and I've come to the conclusion that it's because we're trained to pour a different amount of shots. I noticed in your photos that you opt for larger drinks - in the states, the amounts of shots are Hot Drinks: Short: 2 pumps, 1 shot; Tall: 3 pumps, 1 shot; Grande: 4 pumps, 2 shots; Venti: 5 pumps, 2 shots - for Iced Drinks: Tall: 3 pumps 1 shot; Grande: 4 pumps, 2 shots; Venti: 6 pumps, 3 shots; and for Frappuccinos: Tall: 2 pumps of all; Grande: 3; Venti: 4.

    however in the UK it's Hot Drinks: Short: 2 pumps, 1 shot; Tall: 3 pumps, 2 shot; Grande: 4 pumps, 2 shots; Venti: 5 pumps, 3 shots - for Iced Drinks: Tall: 3 pumps 2 shot; Grande: 4 pumps, 2 shots; Venti: 6 pumps, 3 shots; and for Frappuccinos: Tall: 3 pumps of all; Grande: 4; Venti: 5. as Darkorber wrote, the Grande is a milkier drink, rather than a drink with extra caffeine, because people seek it as an alternative for a weaker coffee, rather than just saying "1 shot" (for example).

    also, if someone is spelling your name wrong, it's not because they misheard you - it's because you're being self-entitled. I know that you've given the COMPANY a lot of money, but the barista behind the counter barely sees that money. we earn £6.50-90 an hour. most people spend more than that when they come to order. yes, I understand the "get another job" argument, but there's no such thing as a magic tree for jobs. it's a difficult thing. personally, I began working for Starbucks because I was a university student; I'm a graduate now, with a high degree, but my experience is in retail & customer services because of Starbucks, so places are less inclined to even interview me.

    and lastly, rather than passive aggressively post on the Internet this grueling review, why not speak up and ask to speak to a supervisor and/or a manager? why not go back to the bar and say "sorry this drink isn't right" instead of throwing it in the bin and storming out like a child? how are we supposed to rectify any mistakes if you don't give us the chance?

    again, I reiterate that I'm sorry that you've had this experience. I wish I could come off anon but my job is on the line when I speak out like this. I hope you return to us and try to work through the issues you've been having.

    P.S. if you do go to Costa though, they have a really beautiful winter drink called Hot Spiced Apple and I recommend it to everyone!
    P.P.S. I hope you're enjoying your time in the UK regardless of the poor Starbucks' that you've been in!

  6. Hello there,

    Thanks for stopping by & having a read. Apologies this is going to be a quick reply as I'm currently on a break at work (ignore any errors lol). It's interesting to hear it from a UK baristas point of view. You make very valid points & I'm glad to hear that your experience working at Starbucks has been positive. My views are simply my opinions & I know that it is a cultural difference which separates the two markets & different palates.

    Starbucks is overall a great company, I just wish that my experience was on the same level as it is in America, especially with a more varied range of flavours & food. I know Starbucks caters to what ever market it opens up shop but I think you need to keep authenticity & not cater to markets so much. It would be like a British person going to a pub & wanting proper ale & it's ice cold rather than cold (lukewarm), or a cooked breakfast & it's American bacon rather than English & they forget the beans....does that make sense?!

    Moving on, I just want to state I'm hardly passive aggressive & DO let my opinions known to the staff. When I tossed my drink in the bin it was the third time if was made wrong. Out of curiosity have you ever had a Starbucks from the states?

    Thank you for your comment & opinion, I will definitely try the spiced apple cider drink at costa, sounds tasty!

    Have a nice day!


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