We’re going to briefly interrupt Shanghai Scrap’s non-stop Expo 2010 coverage to announce that – based upon what we just had for breakfast – Starbucks is doomed. For those who don’t follow the venerable coffee company, it’s been faltering for several years now, largely due to over-expansion into questionable markets in the US (though that appears to have been reversed in the last quarter). The only bright spot has been China, where the company operates 376 stores and – according to CEO Howard Schultz – it has plans to open thousands more. It won’t be easy, though, as he readily acknowledged last week: “[I]t’s a complicated market that requires significant discipline and thoughtfulness.” Exhibit #1 in the lack of discipline and thoughtfulness category: Cuttlefish Cheese Bread, now available at the Starbucks up my street. Click the photos to enlarge.
In case the photo doesn’t make it clear: the bread is blue.
Now it is very much the case that several American fast food restaurant chains have done well in China by localizing their menus (KFC being the undisputed champion in that category). But this isn’t localization; this is just someone saying, “We like bread and cheese; Chinese people like cuttlefish. So … cuttlefish cheese bread! We’ll make a fortune!” Given, that would be the case if there was anything remotely appetizing about cuttlefish cheese bread. Or, as my friend Jarret Wrisley (regular contributor to the Atlantic’s Food Channel, and soon-to-be Bangkok restaurateur) tweeted earlier: “Squid Ink? Cheese? Coffee? Yuck.” Short the stock.
[And briefly: Starbucks, don’t think I didn’t notice the profiteering going on in your Expo outlets. Prices are, on average, 10% – 15% higher than in the city. But worse – and this really gets me – the Expo outlets have eliminated all sizes but Grande, forcing customers to up-size or leave. I actually found myself in an argument over this with an Expo barrista (first and last time that term is used on Shanghai Scrap) who insisted that I was being cheap, and that the prices are the same. Uh-huh.]