Starbucks By Any Other Name Taste As Good?

Coffee giant trials cafes disguised as independents

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There has been as much negative writing about the corporatism of Starbucks as there has promoting the small independent coffee shops.

So it appears that Starbucks management has taken this on board and has decided to try and 'kid' people with their new concept - Starbucks, by another name.

The Seattle Times reports that Starbucks is aiming to rebrand at least three stores in its home town. The outlets will have locally oriented names such as 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea in a bid to have what Starbucks design director Tim Pfeiffer calls “a community personality”.

The stores will also attempt to differentiate themselves and maybe get a little more cool by selling alcoholic drinks as well as coffee, and featuring live music or poetry performances.

However, the move has already been dubbed “stealth Starbucks” in the States, and analysts say that Starbucks is not trialling these outlets for the good of their customers, but rather for profit, seeing that slumps in sales over the year could be down to potential customers preferring to go to their local independents where the coffee may even be cheaper.

Starbucks is also trialling selling some coffee for as little 60p a cup to enhance its appeal among those who have tightened their belts in the recession.

Seeing as there are already three Starbucks outlets in Chiswick, could this idea be hitting our High Road sometime in the future? And if so, is this such a bad thing?

Of course it could potentially take something away from other local businesses, but back in 2007 a coffee poll run on, suggested that of the top three coffee shops in Chiswick, two were chains, Cafe Nero and Giraffe.

If this remains the case, the effect a 'stealth Starbucks' would mostly take business from other chains.

On top of that, if its music and poetry idea were to go ahead, then this would provide much needed opportunities for local artists and poets to present their work to a wider audience.

There is a question mark over the issue of not revealing their true identity, but this could also be addressed. Maybe we should wait and experience it for ourselves, before we make up our minds that this venture is an immoral one.

Jack Collins

August 5, 2009