Starbucks, flush with customers, lack of ingredients

Tasha Leverette was in the mood for her favorite Starbucks drink, a frozen peach and green tea lemonade.

When she passed through the drive-thru of her regular Starbucks in Atlanta three weeks ago, she was told they couldn’t make the drink because they didn’t have peach juice. Shrugging, she went to another store. And another. And another.

Each stop brought disappointment. None of the locations had the full ingredient.

“I told them, ‘This is Peach State, isn’t it?’ Said Ms. Leverette, 33, who owns a public relations firm. “It’s surprising because Starbucks always seems to have everything you need. “

Across the country, patrons and baristas are taking to social media to lament not only the lack of key ingredients for popular Starbucks drinks, like peach and guava juices, but also the lack of iced and brewed coffee. cold, breakfast foods and cakes, and even cups, lids and straws.

A video on TikTok this week featured what appeared to be a group of employees screaming in frustration at a list of ingredients the store was running out of, including sweet cream, white mocha, mango dragon fruit, and ” all foods”. The legend also said that they lacked cold brew and “will to live”.

Starbucks isn’t the only company struggling with supply issues. Earlier this spring, the ketchup packs got hotter than the GameStop stock. Automakers have slowed down production because there aren’t enough computer chips for their vehicles. And homeowners wait weeks, if not months, for major kitchen appliances.

But Starbucks is running out of ingredients for Very Berry Hibiscus refreshments and almond croissants after being one of the big winners in the pandemic economy. During shutdowns, the cafe chain quickly shifted from its “third place” position, where people could linger to work or meet for long conversations, to focus on frictionless transactions with customers ordering via mobile applications and drive-ins. Company executives said this year that Starbucks had experienced a “complete recovery” in sales in the United States, returning to pre-pandemic levels.

In a statement, a Starbucks spokeswoman said the company was experiencing “temporary supply shortages” of some of its products. She said shortages varied by location, with some stores experiencing “various item failures at the same time.” She added that the company was working with its suppliers to restock items as soon as possible and that supply chain issues had not affected prices.

While most people are somewhat familiar with the issues of the global supply chain, some Starbucks customers are still shocked – even exasperated – by their inability to get their coffee exactly the way they want it. Others laugh at it.

“I was told they couldn’t give me an extra dose of caramel because there was a national shortage,” said Nicole Brashear, a 24-year-old pharmacy student at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. , about ordering a caramel iced macchiato with extra caramel drizzle at the end of May. “I just sort of laughed and I was like, ‘Isn’t caramel just burnt sugar? “”

The problem for Starbucks is that it never just sold a single cup of coffee. For many, the experience of visiting the chain is a treat for itself.

Customers learn the language regarding sizes and drink specials, then share their custom 12-ingredient drink orders on social media. Many are eagerly anticipating seasonal promotions, like this summer’s Unicorn Cake Pop and Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino, which are available for a limited time.

Orders aren’t barked by number like they are at other fast food chains, but instead are advertised by name, suggesting customers are friends or are part of the Starbucks club, said Bryant Simon, professor of Starbucks. story at Temple University and author of “Everything But Coffee: Learning About America from Starbucks.”

“Starbucks has done something remarkable – take a truly ordinary product, coffee, and remake it as an identifier of class, culture, insight and knowledge,” said Simon. “Starbucks is a way to communicate something about yourself to others. Although it has gotten more complicated over time, this drink still says, ‘I deserve a break in my life. I can afford to waste some money in coffee.

There had been previous indications that supply issues could arise for Starbucks. In a phone call with Wall Street analysts in late April, Starbucks chief executive Kevin Johnson expressed some concerns about companies in its supply chain struggling to hire the staff they needed.

“I anticipate that we will do a little more to invest and support our supply chain partners, whether it is the people they need for manufacturing or the people they need for distribution and transportation. “said Mr Johnson.

In late May, customers and baristas were reporting shortages of key ingredients or foods in stores across the country.

Fred Rogers knew something was wrong just before Memorial Day weekend when he opened his Starbucks app and an alert was issued that the company was experiencing shortages of certain items. He couldn’t order his 3-year-old daughter his favorite sandwich – sausage, cheddar and egg – at his nearby Starbucks in Burlington, NJ. His drink, a Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino, was also not available.

“I know if you leave after a certain time, some items are going to be missing,” said Mr. Rogers, a 33-year-old manufacturing specialist. “But it was 6:45 am.”

Customers may be unhappy, but Mr Simon said the scarcity of drinks or food is likely to only increase demand. One of Starbucks biggest challenges in recent years has been over-expansion, meaning it has lost some of the uniqueness that once made it special.

“I’m sure there are a lot of heated conversations in Seattle right now about supply chain issues, but someone on the brand side is going to tweet that the shortage may not be. not a bad thing, ”said Simon. .

Maybe, but problems could also be a risk if customers get too frustrated that they can’t get what they want, as they always have. When her daughter couldn’t get her favorite breakfast sandwich at Starbucks, Mr. Rogers took her to a nearby Chick-fil-A for breakfast.

And after driving to four different Starbucks and not having her favorite drink at the end of May, Ms. Leverette is no longer a regular customer.

“It’s disappointing,” she said. “You go there and you wait in the drive-thru, and you only go for one thing and they don’t have what they need to do it.

“I just stopped bothering to go.”

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About Glenda Wait

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