Cast a pitying glance at Howard Schultz, if you must. The oft-admired, much-maligned head of Starbucks faces ever-greater challenges, now that the Sonics are out of his hair for good.
He's closing hundreds of stores, but the trade press is still complaining that there are too many Starbucks (except, of course, for the one on your block). The new blend, Pike Place Roast, that Schultz introduced to shush folks who complained that Starbucks was "over-roasted," is getting poor reviews from diehard coffee fans. Duncan Donuts is selling coffee drinks you can order "in English, not Fritalian." (Tell me again, what language is "latte"?) Even Mickey D is selling espresso.
So what's next for Howard? Two things. First, a new dessert concoction, described in breathless prose by Condé Naste Portfolio: it's affogato. Idiots, I can hear millions of Italians muttering..Affogato ("drowned," in Italian) is no more than a shot of espresso poured over gelato. Local coffee outfit called Torrefazione used to serve it, until they were bought out and shut down by...um, Starbucks.
Which brings us to the present day. The latest step down the garden path is to be called Vivanno, a fruit smoothie. (Sounds Fritalian to me.) Not just any fruit but...banana! And not just banana, but banana with added protein powder for the health-counscious and added fiber for the geriatric set. Says Rob Grady, Starbucks' beverage vice president. "It's a new platform for us."
It's a slippery slope, no? Let's hope the banana platform is more stable than the banana hammock. And that the forgotten fog of affogato past doesn't spoil our sunny summer.
Posted by Ronald Holden at July 14, 2008 3:00 PM