July 9, 2008

Late arrival of coffee giant bucks trends in the village

Posted in International Economy · 36 comments ·
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From Shanghai to Sydney, the image of freelancers emailing happily from wi-fi hot-spots, sipping a latte — all under the vaguely one-world, benign Starbuck’s Medusa logo — is one of the enduring images of globalization.

In recent months, the traders in Dalkey have been gossiping about the impending arrival of Starbucks in the old dispensary of the town. In the building where my children got their first vaccinations, a few doors down from where my grandfather’s paint shop stood, the ubiquitous brand is soon to open its doors.

You can tell a lot about the state of the general economy from the shops on the main streets of our towns. The painted shop fronts can reveal more about the town and the type of people who live there than any highfalutin socio-economic survey. For example, the takeover of the service economy from manufacturing is one of the more obvious trends.

Over the past few years, the complexion of the main drag in Dalkey, Castle Street, has mutated with the ebb and flow of the town’s fortunes. Out went shops that made things and in came shops that provided things. Of course, the estate agents elbowed their way in there too. A few years ago, the local electrical repair shop sold out to Sherry Fitzgerald, ironically just before the local property market peaked. The old launderette was also replaced by an up-market dry cleaners, whose strap-line was the simple “why iron”? I suppose nothing as degrading as housework could have been imagined two years back when there were manicures to be had.

One of the most notable arrivals on Irish main streets has been the coffee house. Today, almost every street in any town has its cafe, resplendent with shining Gaggia, coffee beans and smell of freshly ground Kenyan Mountain. The metamorphosis in Irish coffee habits has been remarkable. As house prices rose, so too did our appreciation of coffee, to the extent that a jar of Nescafe constituted a social faux pas from which many’s the housewife failed to recover.

Out went Maxwell House and Mellow Birds and in came double espressos, frappuccinos and the blueberry muffin. Such a taste revolution is not unusual. All booms are typified by similar crazes: in the roaring 1920′s, tea houses were the meeting place of choice and during the South Sea Share bubble of mid 18th century London, tea houses were also all the range.

The coffee craze that gripped the world in the past few years has led to an explosion in coffee joints of varying quality. However, none has dominated the streetscape like Starbucks. Starbucks is the bull of the market; and it encapsulates bull market euphoria.

Everything it represents captures the easy money, slacker lifestyle to which millions of people aspire. From Shanghai to Sydney, the image of freelancers emailing happily from wi-fi hot-spots, sipping a latte — all under the vaguely one-world, benign Starbuck’s Medusa logo — is one of the enduring images of globalization.

Like Amazon and Google, Starbucks saw a trend and grabbed it, becoming that most unusual of entities — a blue-chip corporate Leviathan masquerading as a lifestyle choice. Like the bull market it represents, Starbucks is enormous, inflated and everywhere. It spread around the world like a scented virus. For a company that started in the late 1980s in Seattle, and had only 165 outlets when it floated in 1992, its growth rate has been phenomenal. Like the Irish economy, Starbucks exploded in the late 1990s and accelerated on a diet of cheap money, social aspirations and euphoria into the Roaring Noughties. As the taste buds of the global middle class aligned with Orwellian conformity, this American giant grew and grew. Today, there are 15,000 cafes in 44 countries, serving the same Mint Mocha Chip Frappuccinos to the same Google-obsessed, Diesel-wearing, downloading, weight watching global tribe. In a few short years, the Starbucks’ generation was born.

It is apt that the first Starbucks in Ireland was in the Microsoft Headquarters in Sandyford. The canteen there, dominated by the two Seattle brands that bestride the globe — Starbucks and Microsoft — is like a well-heeled version of the United Nations. It is a veritable Babel of languages where Europe’s best and brightest sip the drink that has defined a generation while working for the company that has defined a generation.

But, like the boom years it represents, all is not well with the Starbucks generation and the company behind the global coffee craze. Falling house prices, no more easy credit and stock options disappearing down the plug hole of a falling market, have all taken their toll. Like the Irish housing market, the Starbucks share price is in free fall. Its share price — as you can see from the chart — is down 55pc since its highs of last November. Sales have plunged by 28pc as the Starbucks generation tightens its belts for the first time in more than a decade.

Which brings us back to the chatter in Dalkey. The question now is whether Starbucks in Dalkey is a leading or a lagging indicator? Is it a sign that the good burghers of this south Dublin town are going to spend more on such delights (as suggested by Ross O Carroll Kelly recently)? Or is it a harbinger of doom? Is it a sign of the end, where the last Starbucks is yet another sign of the excesses of the past few years and an indicator that we have missed the boat?

In all product cycles (and housing and stock cycles) there are the early adopters and the laggards. The early adopters spot trends first, embrace new ideas and make them hip. Ultimately, those that follow rather than lead tend to be left behind. They are the ones who buy houses at the tail end of the cycle or get into stocks at the top.

Much of the talk in Dalkey is limited to whether Starbucks will damage other cafes on Castle Street. Opinions are spilt. Many suggest that Starbucks will attract more people into the town during the day, driving up the footfall and benefiting everyone. Others argue that this global monster will elbow out everyone else.

However, these local concerns might be missing the global trends. With Starbucks outlets closing all over the US, will Ireland’s late Starbucks development signal yet another truth which is emerging in the slump: despite all our self -congratulation, we were never real leaders.


  1. VincentH

    I have always had a little difficulty with Dalkey, something about the place, the physical place rather that the idea of it, which does not sit well. And while reading your piece I’ve tried to put a finger on it. I kept returning to the cottages as being the only buildings with heart in the place, every thing else is just bitty. It seems that there is no hinge on which the place hangs. Granted that many Irish towns had this problem as they were set up for trade, facing out but the heart hidden, but rivalry between the religions gave most of them a physical focus or two sometimes three.
    Anyhoos, back to you main point. I would feel much better about the place if like Hampstead issue was taken with blind mindless conformity. And where strong fingers had the ability to close together into a fist.

  2. Observer

    Starbucks had it coming to them!

    They aggressively invaded every available town worldwide and employed ruthless expansion tactics, which in turn forced out the traditional cafés that had community spirit.

    I remember one time in the UK when Starbucks opened up in the Nearest Borders Branch forcing out the Bookshop Cafe……….. Coffee Republic is another chain that has been wiped off the face of the earth too!

    Corporate Colonialism I hope should die a painful, slow death with what they have done to small businesses.

  3. Philip

    Starbucks coffee is the most tasteless guk imaginable. It just goes to show how marketing and fads affects people’s minds and denies them access to their tastebuds and other cognitive faculties. As I write this on my ubuntu powered laptop which is 7 years old I cannot help think that the reference to Microsoft (another about to be “also ran” – because my freebie unbuntu system running firefox is as fast as a the latest vista laptop) is deliberate. Maybe Seattle spawned more than its fair share of opportunists who were great at the time – both are now reaching a state of being a bit costly and uninteresting and that is probably the natural end state of all these things. It’s a good metaphor for Ireland’s and probably the world’s end of boom.

    I think a reality check is needed here. What is happening is not really a tragedy. It’s an inconvenience. No one is loosing their lives. It’s just fewer visits to club or whatever. A few less conveniences…Why Iron? Indeed Why Live? – are people so disconnected from the meditative calm of tackling a mountain of linen :)

    So your income will drop probably by 50%, you may loose a job or a house or whatever. So what? My hope to all is that you have enjoyed the party. Get used to haggling and enjoy your memories of that car you used to renew every 2 years and the ridiculousness of it all. The chances are you’ll have more time with your family and friends. There will be less creching, less commutes and less money going around. I would also wager that people will get healthier and happier becasue youre not be imbibing that Starbucks and similar trendy rubbish. Lidl & Aldi will be the favourite grocery shop. Repair stores will come back as we move from a throwaway culture to a conservation one. You’ll probably find you can buy nails by the kg rather than in a stupid bubble pack and you’ll probably have recycled that deck into firewood to offset the 30% -50%increase in ESB , Gas and Fuel bills for the coming winter.

    Our cost base will come down – rapidly. Resourcefulness and ability to get things working and keep things going will be recognised. And I suspect big brands will become secondary to reputation. People will not be willing to part with hard earned cash as easily as before. It’ll be a good time for small businesses.

    Recession? Yes – but the bulshitters will be the main victims. Bring it on!

  4. B

    Maybe we won’t suddenly reverse in fortunes like the majority predict. I think we will probably end up the way downtown Manila has turned. They are pretty much in a permanent recession but they have Starbucks, McDonalds, Prada etc. I think the traffic will still be a nightmare and we will still concentrate on the non essentials. Irelands biggest problem is our inability to do the basics right. We talk the talk and we open the high tech whatevers but the basic 1 2 3 day to day and delivery of the services always lets us down. Outside of the multinational sectors and Ryanair we don’t have a culture of execution. We have a serious culture of bullshit and a culture of staying within our comfort zones and not rocking any boats nor providing consistant service.

    Not all businesses but medium to large sized business is more concerned with internal politics than doing the work. There is no pride in doing a good job but there is political gain from kissing the ass of the next baboon up the line or conforming with your work peers. If they don’t have any standards why should you.

    Bring on the increased traffic to Lidl and Aldi. As a supplier of services to these lads its great to see them coming into fashion.

    As for Dalkey. As a non native Dalkeyite I always end up outside Enyas house when I try to look for the M50 from there.

    Philip sounds more bitter than me. An achievement.

  5. Roche

    An iconic brand which has begun to stumble. Their overstretching and foray into various muffins and essential folk albums has been a giant goof for the coffee brand. In most US cities there is a Starbucks or two every couple of blocks, in every supermarket, and in a lot of corporate canteens. And what could be more satisfying than an overpriced plastic cup of coffee in a cardboard shell?? The real difference between a cup of lava on the Dublin train and a Tall, skinny, half caf, is simply brand positioning. Here in the US McDonalds is competing succesfully on price & quality with Starbucks especially in drive-thru sales but given the choice would you pull your prestine Range Rover up to the window at Starbucks or Mickey D’s? even if it saves you 66%? Ireland is a very brand conscious society but not brand savvy. Despite overpricing, Starbucks destroy their competition through service & convenience. You don’t have to travel far once they have sprung root. This says more about the consumer mindset than the brand itself. Dunkin Donuts came out of nowhere this year and nailed the Starbucks effect with their Fritalian campaign, hilarious (http://www.adchops.com/mediaHolder.php?id=2633). Me, I like no-nonsense coffee with an unchallenging servicescape. Regular coffee please, in a mug.

  6. Colin

    i feel the need to add some balance here. i’ve never had a bad cup of coffee in starbucks, unlike many other “family owned” cafes. that’s why i think starbucks have done so well until recently – they guarantee a good drink in good comfort. you don’t have to buy an overpriced muffin or slice of cake. no sympathy whatsoever for the amateur cafes gone bust. they didn’t respond well to competition. but where were the supermacs or o’briens of the coffee world? the indiginous response was zilch.

    by the way, you are much better off financially to brew your coffee at home. and don’t go back to offerring maxwell house to your guests!

    i can think of much bigger rip offs that ought to have their sales collapse – alcoholic and soft drinks in pubs, directory enquiries services (look up your info on the net for free, it only takes 2 mins), airport retailers (i declined to pay €2.50 for 500 ml soft drink in shannon airport a few weeks ago), sandwiches (make your own at home, they’ll taste better), premium brand ice cream tubs (nothing wrong with our native ice creams), buying dvds (ask yourself how many times will you watch it) … i could go on and on.

  7. b

    Colin,

    Please don’t.

  8. John Q. Public

    It just goes to show how marketing works. A home-grown coffee shop anywhere in the country would not do half as well. We have become brainwashed in this country, slaves to the corporate brands. Watch this for a laugh: http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=1fGnIOZ1yY8

  9. Philip

    “Ireland is a very brand conscious society but not brand savvy” – Very interesting point. I wonder does this say more about brands and their objective to diminish our cognitive faculties in areas of discernment and judgement or is it really an indictment on Irish society. Does this reflect our tendency to solely adopt imported and grown ideas from religion to business to government policy over our own home grown varieties.

    And if the imported ideas are rubbish, the branding ensures we still adopt the nonsense.

    There is only one way to stop this endless cycle of ineptness. Break the link with english for 1 year. Speak, irish, swahili or whatever – shock therapy to reboot the irish psyche.

    Better stop drinking this coffee…

  10. Ed

    “Does this reflect our tendency to solely adopt imported and grown ideas from religion to business to government policy over our own home grown varieties.” The answer is definitely yes! – we’ve never had anyone break through with a quality brand of our own and consequently, we‘re still looking up to outsiders. It’s just one of those things – when you’re at the bottom, it takes a mammoth task to challenge those at the top. Ryanair is an example – they’ve broken through, but their image has had to suffer in the process – “stooping to conquer“. Nokia, is the best known quality breakthrough for a small country. Guinness is a strong Irish brand, but it’s not really Irish.
    Psychology is all that it’s about – I worked for major brand abroad once upon a time – it was up there with god and we actually believed it – we were mentally conditioned to rubbish every other pretender to throne and it worked for a very long time, but eventually a little upstart came out of the blue, put up a serious challenge and surpassed us. That’s the exciting thing about brands, they’re there to be knocked of their throne.

  11. Malcolm McClure

    Brand loyalty and worship both spring from the same well in the human psyche. Both form a substitute for critical thought, which is to be avoided like the plague. This is particularly obvious for brands of food and drink. Is Starbucks a sacrament substitute, or maybe just ‘drink don’t think’? Bland decor for Gothic whimsey. Aroma for incense. Queue for the blessing. Sofa for pew. iTunes for organ. Muzak for choir. Back on the street feeling better by far.

  12. coldblow

    I just came across Desmond Fennell’s “Beyond Nationalism” (1985) in my local library which goes into all this. “Provincialism” describes the mindset whereby you disparage your own achievements and your own sense of self-worth while adopting the ideas and fashions of the metropolis. It is characterized among other things by dependancy, lack of original ideas (be they theoretical or practical) and a reluctance to take responsibility and in our case this stemmed from the fact that the Irish came to identify (to varying degrees) with the English depiction of them as subnormal. Fennell sees the whole world, outside of say NY and London, as suffering from this in varying degrees, but Ireland particularly so despite being, at least nominally, a sovereign state, because of colonization.

    Irish provincialism would have existed for centuries at a barely conscious level but first expressed itself coherently two centuries ago with the campaign to support the Act of Union — the provincialists argued that we were simply not able to go it alone. At the same time there was the rise of nationalism which ultimately led to independence. So we had two reactions to the phenomenon of Irish provincialism: that of the provincialists who saw our inability to do anything right as being only right and natural, as an accurate description of the unfortunate reality, and that of the nationalists who were dissatisfied by our failure to attain proper nationhood. Fennell argues that the latter acted out of the best intentions but that their mindset derived, at least in part, from the English stereotyped image of Ireland albeit as a reaction against it rather than slavish identification with it. So, similar reactions to provincialism but for different reasons.

    An explanation for the relative failure of the national project is that it was an attempt to use the State to bring about an idea of national self determination which was doomed because it was largely based on a foreign idea of what this meant (rather than reflecting local reality) and was dependent on institutions inherited essentially intact and unchanged from the occupying power.

    I offer this to you all free and for nothing. If it is true then what can we do about it? I suppose a necessary first step would be to recognize the problem. But then again maybe we should just keep on plugging away and wait for the breakthrough.

    The last time I saw Fennell on the telly, it was the Bibi show and he was being gratuitously insulted by Michael O’Dowell.

    Cupán tae dhomsa más é do thoil é, déanta le tea leaves cearta an uair seo. Ní maith liom an sciodar ag na máilíní úd!

  13. [...] dear. Dalkey’s pending Starbucks must really be a lot scarier than the regular sort if it’s actually turning other traders [...]

  14. Roche

    Fennel’s hypothesis in relation to global economics is preposterous and self-defeating. Irish people contribute significantly to the worlds most succesful companies through corporate strategy and manafacturing, Google, Elan, Pfizer etc… The only thing we lack is our ecomy of scale. In my opinion, brand image has been the driving force behind Irish consumer buyer behaviour, at least during the tiger years. The most successful brands have capitalized on years of pent up aspirtation. People care more about how they are seen and positioned rather than the brand components etc.

    Irish consumers see homegrown brands in the same way a teenager views their o so uncool parents. They are taken for granted, a little embarrasing, and not generally promoted successfully within their peer group. They would rather hangout with their cool friends who understand them. This is normal & predictable behaviour.

    Quality & associations are an integral part of the identity/image paradigm, we must be seen to be moving in the right circles and gaining status. Ireland has offered many succesful brands over the years however these have been generally for export markets; Waterford Crystal, Guinness, Kerrygold, and a plethera of fine whiskey. To create a great brand you need a great product/service and continuous & innovative hard industy on a large scale.

  15. Philip

    “Irish consumers see homegrown brands in the same way a teenager views their o so uncool parents. ” So true. We are a nation of capable but currently spoilt teenagers. Ask a German how they feel about driving around some of their brands.

    “Quality & associations are an integral part of the identity/image paradigm”, So so so true. Fact is that the t’will do attitude prevails. And if I ask my german friend, they would say it’s like brushing your teeth -what’s the big deal?

    And the sad thing is we do it so well for MNCs … I’d send an Irish company to court for crap service/product before I’d bug it for dodging taxes. Not enough courts I suppose…

    Maybe a tweaking the law so that shooting Irish directors in Irish companies could be regarded as an act of self defense for dodgy services/ products offered. That sort of market self regulation just might work.

  16. You said it man, we were never real leaders. I saw it first in a town called Dingle in the the late 60/70′s when German (mostly) lead the arts and crafts. That says it all dont it. After a few years I guess ten I noticed a few Irish marry into or cohabit the arts and crafts in more ways than one. I observed the Irish were always two and more steps behind and survived not because of choice but sheer demand.
    I think with the bolt of lightening shot through the US markets today with the (we all know) collapse the two biggist mortgage firms; the only thing holding them together is the government promise to back them or take over (more like)
    When out goes the shops that made things and in come shops that provided things, in comes (no real income) the service/slave indusrty, the little business fever; pushing real wage earner to the margins. you create more people who will be social-welfere dependant. Just watch what happens with the increse of unemployed loading on to a system already overloaded before the heat goes on in Sept. October.
    I’m wondering when you’ll see the first riot. I think the English will lead the way. Someone has to.

  17. Ed

    Roche, Apart from Elan the other two, Google and Pfizer, reinforces Fennel’s hypothesis, as for Waterford Crystal and Kerry Gold, they’re good, but unfortunately limited to a few markets. Guinness is foreign owned and promoted, as is Irish Whiskey. The econ. of scale excuse doesn’t hold water – there’s a big world out there. The Irish are particularly bad when it comes to running down their own – a begrudging attitude is mainly at the root of this

  18. Roche

    Ed, I agree with your comment about attitude being key however, Fennel’s argument is a gross genralisation and only serves to further demean the Irish workforce. It can be the case for all cultures that when some people see the mansion on the hill they want to burn it down whereas others want to emulate success through hard work. My argument concerning Guinness, Waterford, Irish Whiskey is that the core brand values are uniquely Irish and the brand elements of these products and marketing efforts have been their staple since inception. As a magnet for FDI we contribute to the success of MNC’s in both the corner office and factory floor. However, in doing so we transfer our wealth overseas. It’s a global economy and this demostrates the power of economies of scale. We need to improve our infratructure, increase R&D, and demand government resources to support small businesses and increase production. Too much focus and tax breaks for foreign companies and not enough encouragement of domestic growth.

  19. bryan

    “i feel the need to add some balance here. i’ve never had a bad cup of coffee in starbucks, unlike many other “family owned” cafes. that’s why i think starbucks have done so well until recently ”

    Yeah. There is an article to be written on how the “anti-corporatists” are the real consumerists, spending weekends looking for ( and consuming ) in an obscure family owned cafe, or looking for status in “unique” shops – all of this is a form of status based navel gazing, typical of a sort of “elite” that might populate a bland bourgeois village like Dalkey. Why not move to a Market town down the country with real shops or long term providence ( rather than modern “organic” and sandals and beads brigade). This is the kind of status seeking that makes the elites change the name of their children when the proles make once-elite names more popular. Tha hatred of Starbucks is merely the typically mediocrity’s desire to be different, the real talented are different and dont need this adolescent shite.

    Irish cafes used to server tea, and instant coffee. Irish people who think that Starbucks is worse than tepid tea, instant Nescafe and the stuff they grew up on are talking utter shite. It is clearly better. Ireland is not Italy, and prior to Starbuck and Starbuck-like premises there were no real coffee shops in Ireland. Everything else is nonsense.

  20. b

    We, the Irish tend to bullshit rather than actually doing.

    We are lousy at execution and the slightest bit of good PR goes straight to our heads.

    We are not unique. We just need to get up off our arses and do it properly.

    I have heard the “family owned” bollocks before. If someone has a business they are “getting above their station” and if they don’t then “sure the brother was always the one with a bit of go in him”.

    You can’t win.

  21. David

    Go away Starbucks- keep traditional Irish tea and biscuits. Be a patriotic tea drinker and turn down the globalist starbucks mucho-bucho-ducho Honduras bean half-creamed, half steamed bla bla bla cofffee! LONG LIVE BARRYS TEA! lol

  22. David

    Bye bye Celtic tiger- its a return to Devs comely maiden Ireland and it may not be a bad idea given how much we’ve lost ourselves over the last 10-15 years and much we’ve lost. Lets start putting Ireland first again- start by drinking homemade tea instead of the globalist one world starbucks puke!!

  23. The one thinking about those (who I wonder) look for obscure family owned cafes – and the like – to be part of an elite is to my mind projecting his own desire to be part of the modern elite of corporatism which is an introverted desire to live under the protection of communism. (“a bland bourgeois village like Dalkey “)
    “This is the kind of status seeking that makes the elites change the name of their children when the proles make once-elite names more popular”)
    So there are elite names re there. Which are the true original elite I suppose.
    I try to get a coffee here in Finland for a euro fifty if I can. To go looking at a menu for various degrees for up to twelve more or less – I’ve never been in a Starbucks – if not elite is just …king mad.
    “prior to Starbuck and Starbuck-like premises there were no real coffee shops in Ireland”
    I think you’re forgetting about Bewley’s Café Grafton St. Westmoreland St. 1886 Since 1884, 1886 respectively- importing tea direct from china, and then slowly the coffee culture began (lets not go back to the 15th century. I mean general use and crazes which as David says , ”all booms are typified by,” that being the David’s case Ireland is too late; very few now and quite a lot in the near future will be able to afford 15 dollars for a top of the range cup-a………………. and in fact the sandals and beads brigade gazing at their navel are more likely to be able to afford Starbucks being now in their fifties and well rooted financially.
    It’s the generation after them who (((have splashed out with credit and the promise of a – brave new world – Starbucks life) on a two hundred thousand euro two roomed flat overlooking some motorway))) will be hard-pressed to come up with the mortgage payments (coming to a dole queue near you soon) never mind 15 dollar Starbucks D/elite.
    Get wide man.

  24. mishko

    Here in Korea, tea rooms are far more common than Starbucks. In particular green tea has long been greatly valued for its healthy properties (http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/green-tea-000255.htm).

    Koreans also drink lots of “tisanes” made from fruit, leaves, roots, etc (wiki “Korean Teas” for a description). They even – like my Granny – use dried mandarin peels.

    Just a couple of points: first, there is nothing “arty” about most of these tea-rooms. Many people here just like to meet their friends in varied places. They can still get locked elsewhere later! Second, with the need to start up new businesses, surely there must be one family in Ireland right now like the Bewleys with the knowledge to offer a range of similar drinks, using local plants. When the going gets tough (as it is getting here too!) it’s good to think of healthy food and drink which can be made and bought cheaply.

    And the Korean green tea market is an export one, by the way. Very easy to transport your dried leaves (so long as you can stop people from adulterating it en route, as has happened). So Ireland’s small population need not deter you. Just a little R & D and you might be lucky!

  25. Philip

    Whether Fennel was right or wrong matters not. It’s a lens on a period in history which still has some meaning today. And we still need to get our basics right from a quality and branding perspective. We are entering a new period of economic history with little precedent we can rely on. Let’s see what is needed to get a few of our own Starbucks (not exactly hi tech either) rather than the usual “Beal Bochts” (groan!) in action.

  26. bryan

    “Bewley’s Café Grafton St. Westmoreland St. 1886″

    True. Not common anywhere else though. There was no coffee culture to destroy in Ireland, nor any large “English Afternoon Tea” tradition either ( outside of Dublin, and the Middle Classes) and neither Bewleys, nor the English Tea tradition – which are worth preserving – are under threat from Starbucks. Mostly we drank instant coffee in Cafes.

    In any case I doubt the “Starbucks means the death of independents” meme – I suspect that the figures will bear out that the consumption of coffee in the US grew concordantly with the growth of Starbucks, and it is clear that there are areas of the US – typically arty “streets” where starbucks con-exists with (many) coffee shops. They congrgate together.

    As for whether the independents have better coffee, I couldn’t tell. I doubt if a blind test would prove any difference anyway. I mean what could be different, Starbucks has trained baristas, proper equipment etc. Are the beans wrong? All independents in the US have the Starbucks model, anyway, mostly people drink Lattes – although they got mad if you used Starbucks terminology – Venti etc. The cups were the same ( ludicrous) size though, though the names different.

    What I find amusing is the Irish opposition to Starbucks, its “destruction” of what was once the greatest coffee drinking nation on Earth (not), and the pretence of people brought up on nescafe instant and weak tea that they can tell coffee beans apart. Class-ridden tribal nonsense.

  27. Ed

    Philip,
    “Let’s see what is needed to get a few of our own Starbucks (not exactly hi tech either) rather than the usual “Beal Bochts” (groan!) in action.”
    The most obvious one to me, is to get Irish graduates to carry the intensity of the exam hall out into the workplace. The belief that a few hours of intense pressure gets you a ticket to a cosy life rubber stamping some foreign outfits ideas has to be challenged – until that culture changes, we won’t go anywhere.

  28. B

    Ed,

    Starbucks isn’t high tech but it is well EXECUTED.

    Execution beats sporadic innovation because good execution means that there is a company around long enough to innovate.

  29. Barbara

    Personally I don’t understand the fuss about ‘Starbuck’s, why should anybody really care or worry whether cthey come to town or villages or not. The simple fact is that a majority of consumers will still go to their favourite haunts dispite the coming of ‘globalisation’. I life in Dalkey village and find there’s more than enough good cafes already servicing the small village, Idlewilde will remain the spot i go to. I for one will not be changing. Good luck to ‘Starbuck’s’.. Think their in for a rude awakening in Dalkey…

  30. Colin

    the people cheerleading the demise of starbucks are simply usa haters. after all the foreign investment the usa has put into this country, and its toursit dollars, its funny how a small but vocal section of our middle class views them. but such is life….

    i’ll continue to go to starbucks wherever i am in the world because i like going there and enjoy the excellent coffees they offer. its amazes me how so many cafes and restaurants in ireland can’t get a cappuchino right. it usually is scorching hot, with little or no foam, and too much cocoa smothering the foam. when i get this crap served up (which happens regularly in irish cafes), i feel like throwing it at them and shouting “its not that difficult to make a good cappuchino!”. if they worked in starbucks for a while, at least they’d learn how to do it properly. i remember paulo tuillo commenting on this, explaining that its not rocket science to make good coffee, yet he recieves poor coffee in so many places he goes. i wish he’d log in and share his views with us.

  31. Observer

    Bewley’s is still around thankfully after nearly 170 years.

    I’d like to see themselves take the initiative and open up proper chain stores e.g. Costa around all of Ireland.

    They are fairly successful with the hotels they have, if they only put more effort into the coffee.

    Currently they allow other establishments to use their coffee & tea brands, this only restricts them competitively.

    The base is strong enough for them to do that with their already established reputation.

  32. Observer

    Now colin, that’s unfair saying that all people who hate “Starbucks” hate America.

    I have family in the States and the US has done alot for Ireland, I acknowledge that and am grateful for that.

    I just personally think Starbucks are Aggressive, Extortionate and Uncompetitive.

    Coffee Republic were my favourite chain & The Bay Cove Company that existed in behind Clarendon Street Church near the Westbury.

  33. Johnny Dunne

    Agreed, in order to be a sustainable leader a company needs to ‘execute’ day in day out, over time a trusted ‘brand’ will develop and value created. A good example of our own ‘Starbucks’ is Ryanair, unfortunately very few other companies founded over the past 20 years have created markets like these two companies. One of the main issues is shareholders sell out (understandable for founders) before these innovative companies have a chance to scale internationally as an independant company. Is more ambition required ?

  34. Paul

    After spending time in the UK, Ireland to me resembles Essex (including Dalkey). Actually the estate that I live in resembles an Essex housing estate, we even have our own Chav’s. People here are obsessed with material objects, and status, we are Britain 15 years ago, so Starbucks will to a roaring trade.

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