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From the Editor: Exploding Like A ‘Star’

Exploding Like a ‘Star’


September 3, 2008
By Cam Wood


Topics

As summer settles in, and
the lingering uncertainty hangs like humid air before a thunderstorm,
we turn towards looking for some calm after the storm.

As summer settles in, and the lingering uncertainty hangs like humid air before a thunderstorm, we turn towards looking for some calm after the storm.

While many of us swelter in the heat as we trudge through our routes, anxiously waiting for some well-deserved time off, there are some positive signs in the path ahead. Perhaps taken in the pain of others, but truly, that is what capitalism is about.

Recent news about American coffee behemoth Starbucks underscores what many have been saying for a long time – overpriced coffee will not survive. And while the decision to close over 600 locations is painful for stockholders and caffeine addicts alike, the capitalist truth is that people won’t stop drinking coffee simply because they can’t get a mocha-java-latté with a half-and-half and a dash of nutmeg anymore … they will drink coffee.

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There’s nothing like a good downturn in the economy to offer a little reverse-osmosis on indulgent snobbery. Starbucks hasn’t been a very positive influence on the coffee community, other than for elevating the status of the beverage. The concept, while shrouded in “fair trade” and hippy idealism, was as capitalist as the day is long … and a little research could uncover that they were pretty much just like any other coffee company, except with leather seats and Feist’s latest independent single.

Keep in mind that what we drink today is virtually the same hot beverage that our ancestors have consumed for the past five centuries. Technology has improved in terms of roasting, preparing and delivering coffee – but all that is still derived from the same bean.

For vending and office coffee services, the Starbucks news bodes well. It’s never pleasant to see the downturn of a company, but such economic contractions will enable us to pick up some of the pieces.

In a recent conversation with this year’s Don Storey Award winner, Brian Martell, the subject of office coffee service came up. Martell’s take is that this is a key time for the operator to focus on location retention. Some OCS offerings may be included as non-monetary benefits for location employees and, if so, as companies deal with the market contraction, benefits such as these could go by the wayside.

What is important is to refocus those locations on the benefits OCS provides. The obvious comes to mind, yet again: keeping employees on site, expanding offerings to meet consumer demands, and one that should be underlined, highlighted and repeated over and over – communicate.

With the vending industry well beyond its 3,000th birthday, and coffee enjoying life as a cosmic teenager, the foundation of care for how we tend to our locations must not be taken for granted for a single moment.

The American “star” exploded as it reached its outer limits. Some experts may argue the point, but from this editor’s chair, it seemed like the company simply lost its focus and brand worth as the world changed around its target market. For 600-plus locations, there was too much assumption of the ideal that people will pay $4 for some pimped-out coffee.

Don’t make the same mistake. Visit your locations, communicate and understand how this economy is affecting them on an individual basis.