What should Howard Schultz do in London?
The news that Howard Schultz, Starbucks' Chairman is due to present the firm's financial results in London this week is interesting. As the Telegraph points out it is because Starbucks is keen to demonstrate that the firm is a global brand. London has been chosen for the honour because the UK is the second biggest market after the US.
I feel that as a Londoner and coffee lover I might be able to suggest to Howie some things he should do whilst he's in town, to take his mind off the drudgery of meeting investors:
- Meet Gwilym Davies and James Hoffman - these two men, often in concert, are at the forefront of London's exciting coffee scene. Not only are they making black gold sexy, they are also putting the science into coffee because they're passionate about it. They're evangelical. They want every cup of coffee to be the best, because they want everyone to enjoy coffee as much as they do.
I assume they share this with Howard. If Starbucks is a global brand, Schultz must be seeking a level of homogeneity in the coffee he serves. The same tasting coffee is not necessarily a bad thing, unless it tastes like pissenwasser. If I knew that in every city I could get a latte as good as the one I had on Friday from The Milk Bar, I'd be very happy.
- Meet me - I'd explain that I can't stand Starbucks because I can't stand the coffee. Simple as that. It all comes down to the product and I think it's bland and nasty. I've sent an email to his PR and IR people to see if they've got a slot free.
- Meet Silverbrowess - she'd explain that she loves Starbucks. Really loves it. She loves the coffee, the more syrups the better. For her, it's all about the product. It's perfect and her mood distinctly improves when she see the chaste mermaid.
- Drink some tea - he should meet Henrietta Lovell and remember what it is to love the product you're selling and how to do the best by the people producing your raw product.
Why do I care what Starbucks does? Because I can't help but be excited about the prospect of so much good coffee doing the rounds. I'm a mug-half-full kind of guy, but I am also a realist and don't hold out much hope that Starbucks does actually care about the flavour and quality of the coffee it sells, despite Howard's protestations.
I do wonder whether it is possible to have a large food or drink company, that retains the elements of what made it great and is attractive to investors. And don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against being driven by an economic imperative. There is not a single company that doesn't exist to make money. But can an entrepreneur with a passion for food and drink can ever scale their business so that they keep others with a similar passion as happy as they keep investors? You might as well have a go.
Howard, whilst you're here take advantage of your time. Understand why you're loved and loathed, and then do something about it.