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Starbucks: Small Meals, Huge Drinks, Global Dreams

Posted by Mark J. Miller on July 12, 2011 02:00 PM

Starbucks has noticed that more and more consumers are watching what they eat, so the company has just introduced Bistro Boxes.

The small meals (Chipotle Chicken Wraps, Sesame Noodles, etc. ) are designed to be healthier — under 500 calories and less than $7 a pop, as noted by USA Today — while giving customers a non-caffeinated reason to come back, and increasingly associate Starbucks with food.

On the iced coffee front, however, the vendor is going the other direction, finally rolling out the promised jumbo size, the Trenta, that is 11 ounces bigger than its previous “large” size, the Venti.

Following a limited market test the Trenta is debuting today in Chicago and the northeastern US, including Boston. “I don’t know if it’s too much coffee, but I’ll know in about an hour when I’m shaking,” commented one male customer to the Boston Herald.

And the company isn’t just growing its cup sizes. It’s also looking to grow internationally — why stop at domestic dominance?

The Seattle Times reports that the company just added an exec, Michelle Gass, to help with the global growth plans. She “had been in charge of the Seattle's Best Coffee chain and brand for Starbucks” and now will be in charge of Starbucks stores in Europe and the Middle East.

This will displace John Culver, the paper notes, who had been running the whole international operation. He’ll now focus exclusively on the Asia-Pacific market. He gets to be involved with Starbucks introduction to India next year and Vietnam in 2013, the paper notes. 

The executive shuffle also sees Cliff Burrows, who was in charge of just the U.S. operations, adding Canada as well as Central and South America to his responsibilities.

"We're doubling down on our commitment and belief that the international business is going to be much more significant in the future," Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz commented. The Times notes that Starbucks has nearly 17,000 stores, with 2,700 in Asia, 1,700 in Europe and the Middle East, and 1,500 in Canada and Latin America.  “Revenue for the international business rose 20 percent during the fiscal year ended Oct. 3, to $2.3 billion,” the paper reports.

One way the organization plans to continue its overall growth is to introduce Starbucks kiosks in key locations. One has just opened in a Marriott in Indianapolis.

"The recently opened JW Marriott Indianapolis is the perfect location to unveil Starbucks' new concept," said Brent Hirschy, the store manager, in a company release. "We're anticipating serving hundreds of thousands of hotel guests, convention goers and Indianapolis locals each year, and expect this location to be a great performer for the Starbucks brand."  

In other good news for the company is that it “won dismissal of a lawsuit by former assistant store managers in New York who accused the world's largest coffee chain of cheating them out of customer tips,” Reuters reports.

U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan apparently didn’t think the plaintiffs proved that they should be getting part of the cash Starbucks patrons leave in the little tip jars that are often found near registers.

Don’t you dare think everybody at Starbucks is resting easy as a result. Now the company has the threat of a strike by store employees in Chile who want higher pay and added benefits, Reuters reports:

“Fewer than 30 percent of Starbucks' more than 670 employees in Chile are unionized. Two hundred of those unionized workers authorized a strike on June 25. Roughly 140 of those union members were scheduled to work on Thursday, said Andres Giordano, president of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Starbucks Coffee Chile union. If 50 percent, plus one, do not show up for their shifts a strike will be called and protests will begin on Friday, he said.”

Get on that, Burrows!

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