WHAT IF Starbucks decided to close its stores for a whole day? Imagine, you’re driving to work with early-morning brain fog, you pass by the most convenient Starbucks, and from the street you see a big “CLOSED” sign behind the glass. Not to be denied, you head for the drive-thru, but your access is blocked by green cones (everything matches at Starbucks). You’re still in denial, so you pull into a parking space, get out of the car, and peer through the darkened windows. Horrors. Your 7×24 caffeine-addiction fixer-upper (well, almost 7×24, but who craves coffee at 3am?) has taken the day off. Are you getting a case of the jitters just reading this paragraph? Is this a Catch-22, because you can’t think up another coffee option until you’ve actually had your morning coffee?
We had a little “sip” of this scenario earlier this week, didn’t we? For reasons that were relevant-today gone-tomorrow (maybe), Starbucks took the high road and delivered several hours of anti-bias training to its employees, closing 8,000 locations in the process. For one interminably-long afternoon and evening on Tuesday, you had to search a lot harder to find your grande no-whip Caramel Macchiato. When Starbucks’ announcement lit up the front-page headlines last week, my first thought wasn’t, “the lines are about to get longer at the bathrooms” (though admittedly, it’s a legitimate concern since I’m a man of frequent visits), nor was my first thought, “we’re about to see a lot of, uh, interesting people at Starbucks now” (because we already do, don’t we?) Rather, my thought was, “how the heck are we gonna cope with several hours of no-Starbucks, when 100 million patrons – you read that right – frequent their stores every week?”
In a related headline, an economist claimed this one-time Starbucks shutdown would cost the company $12 million and be a boon for “coffee competitors” like McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. Laughable. I know those restaurants have their fair share of coffee allegiance these days – if you consider “fair share” less than 1%. No, the world didn’t rotate off its axis on Tuesday, but I also won’t promise patrons didn’t line up at the Starbucks drive-thru hours before the open on Wednesday morning. Our Starbucks habit was ingrained at an early age, well before the competition stepped up. Howard Schultz is a genius.
More likely, the impact of Tuesday’s shutdown is what I refer to as the “Chick-fil-A effect”. If you’re a fan of CFA, you’ve known from the get-go their stores close on Sundays. It’s a simple building block of the founder’s philosophy: CFA employees should spend their Sundays resting and at worship, with family and friends. Now, you might pass Chick-fil-A on a Sunday and think, “Closed. What a nice gesture – more companies should do that.” But I’m pretty sure you’re actually thinking, “Damn – I was really craving a #1 meal, hold the pickle, w/ lemonade”. And that thought will stay with you until Monday. And Tuesday, And Wednesday, or whatever day you next pass by Chick-fil-A. Maybe their alt-slogan should be, “Closure Makes the Heart Grow Fonder” or something like that. It’s as much a business strategy as a thoughtful benefit for CFA employees. On that note – trust me – Starbucks will make up Tuesday’s lost business by the time I hit the “publish” button on this post.
Nothing Bundt Cakes (“Home of the Most Delicious Bundt Cakes Ever!”) is kinda sorta the same animal as Chick-fil-A. For reasons suspiciously vague, NBC allows its franchisees the option to close on Sundays. Google your NBC’s hours before you head over for a white chocolate raspberry bundt or a lemon bundtlet. The next time you find their doors unexpectedly locked, I predict your dreams will be relentlessly invaded by dozens of little flying bundtinis – at least until you satisfy your craving with a purchase. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Here’s the irony about today’s musing: I’m typing my post from a Starbucks. I’m sitting quietly at a table, enjoying a grande cold brew with a touch of cream. The baristas are unusually perky (surely a side effect of their recent training). The restaurant feels quiet and “inclusive”. In other words, I didn’t cry over spilt coffee on Tuesday. Instead, I just proved my theory. a) Tuesday afternoon I couldn’t go to Starbucks. b) I wasn’t even planning to go. c) The store closures were in the headlines, which inserted “caffeine denial” into my brain. d) Here I am, just two days later, getting my Starbucks on again.
Touché, Mr. Schultz.