Are You Willing to Wait for Quality? Are Employees?

by Michael Haberman on October 13, 2010 · 0 comments


In a Wall Street Journal online article entitled Starbuck Baristas Told No More Than Two Drinks writer Julie Jargon relates that Starbucks is trying to improve the quality of its product by slowing down the baristas that make the drinks. (I find it amusing that someone with the last name of Jargon writes on Starbucks, the place where people ask the question “Why is a small called a tall? And why is a grande the medium size?”) Ms. Jargon relates that making coffee at Starbucks has become too assembly-line-ish and as a result the quality has suffered. Workers were trying to meet the demand of lines as the register and lines at the drive-thru and thus making multiple drinks at a time. Rather than steaming milk for one drink they were steaming milk for mulitple drinks at a time, etc. So Starbucks has told its baristas (the people who make the drinks) to slow down and make no more than two drinks at a time and explain to customers that the wait is the price for a quality drink (that and the $4 you are spending on the drink.)

Now I have to admit that my first take on this headline was that they are telling to employees that they cannot drink more than two drinks a day. I thought perhaps they were trying to go through a massice detox effort. After all I have seen some seriously wired employees. But at the same time with some of the lines I have seen someone seriously wired was needed to work fast enough to handle the demand. So it will be interesting to see how this plays out. There is one component that will make sure that this fails.

That component is the feedback given to the employees. If they now receive negative feedback for not serving people fast enough, subsequently getting poor performance reviews, they will find ways to short cut the process in order to meet the demand. The quality effort will fall flat on its face. After all the store manager does not get an immediate measure of quality of drink produced, but they do see lines and they do hear complaints about how long it is taking. So managers may be tempted to short cut the rules or they will put additional pressure on employees to be faster. Either way, the corporate effort is not successful.

My personal solution? I only order coffee, in my own cup and I add my own cream and sugar. I am responsible for the time, and my cost is minimal. But what about you? Are you going to wait for Quality? And more importantly is that barista going to wait to produce it?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara A Hughes October 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm

How interesting, Mike. With all of those jiggy baristas, most of whom I suspect have at least an undergraduate degree, and no one is asking the very people who might know, how to improve the process. Anyone who has ever watched even one episode of Undercover Boss sees how "Corporate" can design a gazelle to look like a moose. As the CEO from Choice Hotels said a couple of weeks ago, "it looks good on paper until someone has to implement it". Duh

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Barbara A Hughes October 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm

How interesting, Mike. With all of those jiggy baristas, most of whom I suspect have at least an undergraduate degree, and no one is asking the very people who might know, how to improve the process. Anyone who has ever watched even one episode of Undercover Boss sees how "Corporate" can design a gazelle to look like a moose. As the CEO from Choice Hotels said a couple of weeks ago, "it looks good on paper until someone has to implement it". Duh

Reply

evilcatbert October 14, 2010 at 3:38 pm

I know there are many ways to screw up good ideas but I still like the fact that someone keeps trying to implement them.
After traveling to Europe, I realized I enjoyed most of my meals there because my food was actually & regularly hot because it was made form scratch – not prepped and nuked prior to service! For that same reason, I now frequent local establishments that cook food to order rather than crank it out. Quality does take time but if you value the result enough, it's time well spent anticipating great things to come.
I give Starbucks credit for trying to hold on to what made them able to take an inexpensive product and charge significantly more for it than anyone would have believed possible. Who knows – maybe they can actually make their quality standard stick!

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