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monsoon

Why Starbucks, Krispy Kreme and others are so Bland

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The article below is a pretty good discussion on what happens when a chain expands too fast. It focuses on Starbucks and Krispy Kreme but it could apply to dozens of other "must have" chains that later went to pot. I remember KKs expansion in the early 2000s when people on these forums were thrilled about the store, and waited for two hours to get a box of doughnuts. The downer of that, as the article suggests, is that it completely misses the experience of the original stores. The reason that I am posting this article here is to get an opinion on the effect of these places on urban places. Is a chain store such as Starbucks something to be desired or does it force out independent business that might provide better service and quality but does not have the name recognition? What do you think?

Starbucks' 'venti' problem

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I've never seen a rise and fall so quick as Krispy Kremes in the northeast. They were huge for about a year, and now most have closed or have totally cut their hours and are doing poorly. I think one of the only things that keeps them going is that they sell them to supermarkets and gas stations. I don't understand this at all since they are disgusting and soggy unless they are fresh.

I loathe Starbucks and agree that local coffee shops always have better service and usually better tasting goods. Some people prefer the name recognition, though, so what can you do? I'd like to see them stay out of non-tourist, convention areas of cities where people can be more familiar with the local flavor.

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Downtown Washington is carpeted with Starbucks. I still go to one of them almost daily for coffee, but I visit another coffee chain- Cosi in the mornings. The latter likes to call itself a restaurant, but I avoid their food like the plague. There is little doubt that whatever charm Starbucks might have once held is gone. I recall when they started to expand in Boston in the late 80's. First it was one or two, then suddenly they erupted everywhere like a pox. The neighborhood where I live, Dupont Circle, is struggling to maintain its identity in a rising tide of high rents and the inevitability of chain stores being the only tenants able to afford them. Interesting article.

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Indeed. For cost cutting, they basically got rid of their baristas and replaced them with minimum wage employees and superautomatic espresso machines. These produce very mediocre espresso which you still pay a premium for but anyone can operate them. This action has allowed them to spread like weeds because they no longer have to have an experienced barista to open a shop.

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I like Starbucks coffee. However, I don't drink espresso, lattes... I only drink the coffee. The people that work at Starbucks that I have frequented are generally very friendly, sometimes almost too much. I have two other local coffee shops that I go to more frequently, but I still hit Starbucks occassionally. I typically hit the drive thru on the way out of town on a road trip. I once read that Starbucks offers discounted health coverage for any employee that works more than 20 hours/week. More large, service oriented companies should follow that lead.

An interesting thing that I have noticed as well about the Starbucks phenomenon is the growth of locally owned coffee shops. Many of these small, local shops have been created to basically feed off the Starbucks craze, catering to those that want an alternative. These shops didn't exist in many cities until Starbucks came to town, if you wanted coffee, you went to Waffle House or McDonald's.

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Amazingly, we are a town without a Starbucks but with around 10 coffee shops. 8 of those are independently owned and 2 are chains (Dunn Brothers Coffee and Caribou Coffee).

Caribou is a chain based in Minnesota but shares the market pretty equally here with Starbucks.

The rise and fall of Krispy Kreme is pretty amazing though. Everyone in St. Cloud, MN was so excited for it when they opened in 2003 in a brand new building. They closed in 2006 and they tore the 3 year old building down and now it's an office strip mall... a perfect example of what St. Cloud, Minnesota is.

I think businesses need to expand slowly lest they over do it. K-Mart did this in the '70s and has since learned from it and Wal-Mart is currently experiencing something similar. A little moderation never hurts.

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I think they are two separate cases. Krispy Kreme basically is one of the many companies that rise due to a great product, and then switch into too much of the cost-saving revenue maximizing modes where the quality takes a dive and people simply stop going. Happens to a lot of businesses.

Starbucks I think is a case of over saturation. You get so bombarded with it that you avoid going there just to avoid going there. And then they get a little cocky, expecting people to go a little further out of their way to reach them (maybe not so much in Starbucks case). and soon people stop really wanting to go there.

As much as I hate Starbucks, I think they did find a niche and filled it. You hate them because they are such an obtrusive megacorp, but in reality they are probably a lot more fitting to a neighborhood than a Dunkin Donuts.

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Yeah... well it sounds like Krispy Kreme just flat out fell on their faces. They built and opened two brand new stores in Colorado Springs and a year later closed them both. I never bought in to the Krispy Kreme craze, so I haven't really followed their story, but it sounds like their expansion efforts were a huge failure in a lot of markets. A donut is a donut, right?

I don't mind Starbucks. Colorado Springs has a pretty good selection of locally owned coffee shops, and I prefer to patronize those places... but I do find myself in Starbucks from time to time (especially the 24 hour location in Denver) and I don't feel bad about it.

I believe in shopping local, but I think in a truly healthy economic environment their can be a place for both mom and pop and the big chains... Within about five blocks in Downtown Colorado Springs along Tejon Street there are the very succesful locally owned Boulder Street Coffee, Coffee & Tea Zone, Pikes Perk, and Coffee and Tea Exchange, AND two Starbucks locations basically across the street from each other. They've all managed to find a regular clientel and stay in business because they have a good product, and a solid business plan.

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I think the best cities make an effort to keep independent "mom and pop" operations alive. When the only place to get a cup of coffee is Starbucks, t's probably a bland city. That's my experience anyway. That being said, it's certainly possible for chains and local shops to coexist, and that provides for healthy competition.

Krispy Kreme couldn't work in the northeast because Dunkin Donuts (and Starbucks, to a lesser extent) already had the market cornered on coffee, especially with older folks who had been going there for years. Krispy Kreme's coffee, in my opinion, is garbage, especially when compared to Dunkin Donuts' coffee.

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First off, I know I never went to Krispy Kreme for the coffee, I used to go for the warm gooey Glazed Donuts that Dunkin Donuts could never serve. I have never bought the KK Donuts in conveniance stores or grocery stores though, b/c DD's are just as good or better than stale KKs. I think KK had a good thing here in the SE, and should have kept the focus here, though when I was in Maui, I went to one by the airport in Kahului that was doing quite well.

Starbucks has definitely downgraded in quality through their expansion, but I do buy the packaged coffee beans from them and use that every morning at home over Folgers or any other store brand. If I go to a coffee shop, I prefer to go to local shops, if they are any good, but have no problem grabbing a coffee from a Starbucks in an airport or convention center or a shopping mall. I'm not a person that one would consider brand loyal, I want the best value and best quality that I can get.

BTW, one chain that seems to be exploding and I wish it weren't is Paneras. There was one that opened up near The Ohio State University campus in the late 90s that I went to all the time to grab a coffee and a bagel/muffin and would sit by the fire to do my reading or studying in a pretty quiet area. I always enjoyed that place, but now they are popping up all over.

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Let's discuss the impact of these failures on the environments they are located in, and not how much you like a particular doughnut or cup of coffee.

One of my biggest beefs about these chains and the quickness on how they spring up in places is they reduce almost everything to a dull medocre mass produced sameness where one place in the United States is pretty much the same as anywhere else. Are there any chains that truely make a difference or do they all end up going down the same route?

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One of my biggest beefs about these chains and the quickness on how they spring up in places is they reduce almost everything to a dull medocre mass produced sameness where one place in the United States is pretty much the same as anywhere else. Are there any chains that truely make a difference or do they all end up going down the same route?

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Not necessarily. Depends on the chain. Dunkin for instance always has this terribly ugly design that never, ever fits, and they are very adamant about doing their signage they way they want. We have Panera growing up here, and at least in two cases I think they have really revitalized an otherwise pretty bland strip mall. In fact, we have a an area that used to be a couple of old 50s strip malls on both sides of an intersection that was pretty much a dump. Panera, and then Moe's, came in. It has now attracted several restaurants, both chain and independent, a couple of which now offer outdoor seating. It also brought in more interesting shops, and now that is becoming the hot center of the city.

It all depends upon the store. Many chains are actually run independently by franchisees. Those that are run by individuals who only have a few stores usually are pretty good about responding to their surroundings, in some cases better than some of those independents! When it starts to hurt is when you get the national franchisees who just build without paying any attention to anything else.

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That is a good point about the franchise aspect of these things which I had forgotten about. However one of the things that I mark as a good urban environment vs one that isn't, is the availability of "street food" and local eateries vs a dunkin doughnuts or a KK.

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I think its about options. Sure every Starbucks looks the same, sure every Panera or Noodles N' Company look the same, but at least it's an option... I agree wholeheartedly, a healthy urban environment must have local diners, local coffee shops, hot dog and burrito vendors on the corners, etc etc etc, but if the area is truly* healthy, I think there is a place for both the local and the chains... and I think the consumer wins in having more options. Lets face it... do you really think the average consumer thinks "Boy this starbucks looks boring" when they go there? No. They are thinking "I want my white chocolote mocha." They care about the product not the building it's sold in. Granted this isn't alway's true. You'll never hear me championing a wal*mart for example, but I think smaller chains that focus on specific products, coffee, food, etc, have a place... and can add to, not suck dry, a vibrant urban environment.

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One of my biggest beefs about these chains and the quickness on how they spring up in places is they reduce almost everything to a dull medocre mass produced sameness where one place in the United States is pretty much the same as anywhere else. Are there any chains that truely make a difference or do they all end up going down the same route?

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That is a good point about the franchise aspect of these things which I had forgotten about. However one of the things that I mark as a good urban environment vs one that isn't, is the availability of "street food" and local eateries vs a dunkin doughnuts or a KK.

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TGI Fridays is one of those restaurants trying to buck the chain store effect (loss of uniqueness and identity) The intimacy of a one of a kind restaurant comes at a risk that most consumers do not want to take. When I visited my home town in Lake Tahoe a couple years ago I found myself (not by choice) sitting in a TGI Fridays. On the wall were authentic memorabilla from my town including one of our old High School football jerseys. I coundnt help but feel local identity theft. The good news is that chain stores are souless and even if they adapt to their surroundings architectually or even by serving only local dishes they are still outsiders and tourists of our cities. Just like the typical tourist who visits other countries or goes on cruises but spends their time in a bubble of thematic gluttonous consumerism lacking in respect for foreign surroundings, food cuture and customs. Tourist daily life is lifeless and personally I think they belong only at the Airports and not in downtowns where culture, uniqueness and soul live.

Bacause of this countries mentality and history I am against chainstores.

Brad

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I travel frequently with work and often try to get the "local scoop" on good eating establishments. I agree, most national chains are bland and service is very inconsistent. I only frequent when I don't get a good read on local restaurants.

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All I know is taht I wish we had a Krispy Kreme here. I LOVE those donuts...resonably priced, too.

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I would say that the chains may be consistent on food and product, but inconsistent on service.

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Having coffee and doughnuts all over is never a bad idea. KK doughnuts are good, just too much icing. They do serve a nice dark roast of java. Now Starbucks is out of control, I have seen them located right across the street from each other, but they do a good job on making the perfect white chocolate latte, taste the same at any location.

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Starbucks has oversaturated America, now KK I can deal with, their doughnuts are on point :shades:. New Orleans has 9 Starbucks:

2 Uptown Locations-Magazine & Washington, plus one on Maple St. next to Tulane

5 in Downtown/CBD :blink:

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