Starbucks puts quality over quantity

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Starbucks is taking a step that at first seems a little odd: the firm has ordered its baristas to slow down.  Instead of grinding the beans at the beginning of the day, they’re to recreate a little theater by grinding them fresh for each batch; instead of working on a bunch of drinks at once, they’re to handle only two at a time, beginning the next while the previous drink is processing.

The result will be a more consistent coffee experience.  As the company has grown, its struggling with the problem that plagues any organization which tries to scale: controlling worker output so that the customer experience is roughly the same every time.  Naturally, this problem is largest in service organizations.

How they solve it makes a big difference.  Consider Burger King and McDonalds differentiated themselves a few decades ago:  McDonalds maximized throughput with batch cooking, while Burger King relied on a sort of mechanized burger assembly line.  That meant that Burger King’s product was more consistent, and could be more easily customized, since they arrived in a continuous stream rather than all at once; that’s why they emphasized that you could “have it your way”.  Among other things, this made labor quality less important, because the machine, not the worker, cooked the burgers.

Full Story: Starbucks puts quality over quantity – The Atlantic