Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Would You Like Foam With That? Starbucks to Introduce Value Meals

In response to floundering sales and an increasingly competitive market, Starbucks recently announced plans to introduce a new line of "value meal" style breakfast pairings beginning March 3rd. 

Meal options include a tall (small in Starbuckese) latte with oatmeal or coffee cake, or a tall drip coffee paired with a variety of breakfast sandwiches. The meals will cost $3.95 and save customers an average of $1.20.

But that's not all- starting today, Starbucks has launched a campaign to promote their latest attempt to attract recession minded penny pinches- instant coffee packets.

Called Via, the Ready Brew Instant Coffee packets sell for under $1 a piece and are being tested in Chicago and Seattle markets.  They're available in two flavors- Columbia, a medium blend, and Italian Roast, an extra bold blend for more experienced drinkers. 

Whether these efforts will save the staggering company remains to be seen, but either way, it's a move in the right direction for the coffee giant, who reported record losses in the last fiscal quarter. 

As a former Starbucks barista, I can't help but feel a little defensive about this topic.  Sure, an iced quad venti vanilla soy latte might set you back $5 (and a few hundred calories), but I tend to agree with CEO Howard Schultz's recent statement regarding "misperceptions about affordability." If you're anything like my father- who shudders at the idea of flavored syrups, rolls his eyes at multi-syllabled drink orders, and thinks the frappuccino is a new dance craze- you may be surprised at how affordable a plain old fashioned cup of coffee at Starbucks can be.  I made a few calls to the Big Four of Coffee (Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, and Burger King) to compare *prices of drip coffee in NYC stores, and the results were pretty surprising:

Tall (12 oz) $1.75
Grande (16 oz) $1.95
Venti (20 oz) $2.10

Dunkin' Donuts
Small (14 oz) $1.61
Medium: (16 oz) $1.94
Large (24 oz) $2.29

McDonald's (with taxes)
Small (12 oz) $1.40
Medium (16 oz) $1.61
Large (20 oz) $1.83

Burger King
Value (12 oz) $1.08
Medium (16 oz) $1.29 
Large (20 oz) $1.51

While Starbuck's prices are, on average, highest out of the four, I find it interesting that Dunkin Donut's and Starbuck's medium sized prices are within a penny of each other- and that the large at Dunkin is actually 19 cents more expensive than Starbucks.  (To be fair, Dunkin's large is 4 oz bigger. But do you really need a coffee the size of a Big Gulp?) 

Burger King definitely wins for best deal at just above a dollar for a small cup.  But I wonder if they freshly grind their coffee daily, brew a new pot every 30 minutes, use fair trade coffee, pay their workers above minimum wage, and provide workers with health insurance and stock options.... like Starbucks does. 

...Maybe it's worth it for those extra few cents a cup.

*All prices are without taxes unless otherwise noted.


  1. don't defend it- their prices are STILL damn ridiculous... they should pay ME to drink their coffee.

    but I get it for free on Mondays so I can't complain.

    actually I WILL complain- WHY DID YOU STOP WORKING THERE!?!?

  2. Not going to lie, ran out of free Starbucks beans a bit back and am like a ghoul every morning.

    However, I still refuse to actually pay money for Starbucks coffee. When it comes down to it, Burger King might be cheapest but their coffee sucks. McDonald's is acceptable in a pinch (Bread Co. actually makes damn good coffee, at least out here in the midwest).

    However, I think the idea of a value meal is kinda silly ("Do you want a scone with that?") Interesting nonetheless.

  3. Let's all wake up and smell the coffee here - Spending 3.00 on a cup of coffee when you can get it for 79 cents at WAWA is simply CRAZY! And who can afford it? Not me, anymore! That being said, I have to go grind my Starbucks beans (medium grind, 1/2 decaf, 1/2 regular, mud thick, just a touch of milk, - ever so wonderful) so that I can get my fix tomorrow morning!