Wednesday, January 23, 2008

As the Price of Coffee Turns

As if Tuesday’s market plunges weren’t enough to demoralize us all, The New York Times’s Dining section followed up today with an article on a new insane price-point for your daily pick-me-up: “At Last, a $20,000 Cup of Coffee.”
Uncaffeinated jaws dropped before realizing that it wasn’t meant literally (please see: recent $18,000 belt): it is a coffee machine that costs those big bucks, not the individual servings it produces with its “brass-trimmed halogen heating elements, glass globes and bamboo paddles.”
At the same time, The Wall Street Journal was reporting coffee news at the opposite end of the price spectrum. Improbably, a purveyor with a reputation for emptying wallets was coming to the rescue:
Starbucks Tests $1 Cup, Free Refills in Seattle
Deep pockets, rest assured: it is still possible to spend a lot of cash at Starbucks. One blogger recently discovering a $13.76 concoction — try saying this one in the face of an impatient order-taker: “13 shot venti soy hazelnut vanilla cinnamon white mocha with extra white mocha and caramel.”
Of course, the $1 Starbucks is aimed at a whole other audience.
As McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts have lured coffee drinkers with low, low prices, Starbucks stock has plummeted. Earlier this month, the longtime chairman of the company seized the executive reins of the company and promised a “laser-like focus” on reinvigorating the “Starbucks experience,” according to Andrew Martin’s report in The New York Times.
Meanwhile, McDonalds is working on replicating that experience, too, by hiring baristas at locations across the country.
And in an interview published today in Advertising Age, the chief executive of Dunkin Donuts, Will Kussell, played the schoolyard tough guy, dismissing the competition and spoiling for a fight — in terms of selling coffee and carbs, of course.
“We really are the leading beverage authority,” Mr. Kussell said of his company. “Marrying that with our bakery authority, we have a two-fisted punch, and of course it’s built on speed of service.”

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