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Starbucks Should Pick Up the Pace, Poll Says

Readers of TheStreet overwhelmingly agree that Starbucks should not slow down its service by asking baristas to prepare only two drinks at a time.

SEATTLE, Wash. (

TheStreet

) --

Starbucks

(SBUX) - Get Starbucks Corporation Report

is making a mistake by asking its baristas to work at a slower pace -- at least that's what readers of

TheStreet

think.

We reported last week that

Starbucks is asking its baristas -- the workers behind the counter who actually make the coffee drinks -- to work at a slower pace so customers don't feel like their coveted caffeinated beverages came off a mechanized assembly line.

Likely engaging in an overall strategy to differentiate itself further from the increasingly popular McCafe offerings at

McDonald's

(MCD) - Get McDonald's Corporation Report

, Starbucks wants its baristas to prepare two drinks at a time at most, and to take more care in preparing each beverage. Baristas are being asked to steam milk for only one drink at a time instead of a whole pitcher for multiple drinks, as well as rinse pitchers after each use, remain at the espresso bar at all times and use one espresso machine instead of two.

We polled readers to see what they thought, asking whether or not Starbucks should slow down its service. Readers of

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TheStreet

overwhelmingly agreed that no, they need their coffee as quickly as possible and would stop going to Starbucks altogether if the lines get any longer.

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Out of 537 votes, 76.5%, or 411 respondents, voted no, while just 23.5%, or 126 respondents, voted that yes, the Starbucks assembly line gets their order wrong too often and they are willing to wait a little longer for the perfectly prepared mochachino.

Our poll sparked a heated debate in the comments forum as well.

A number of readers commented in favor of a slower, more artfully made cup of coffee, while others argued in favor of faster, more streamlined service.

Duritejog26 didn't seem to mind much one way or the other: "Who cares if they use 2 machines or 1 machine? Who cares if they use one pitcher or two for steamed milk? Sheeesh! I just want my drink without too much hassle."

Justthinking commented that "slow or fast is largely a moot point," adding that "

overpriced, trendy coffee is a dying trend."

Maybe so, but in the coffee chain's most recently reported quarterly financial results,

Starbucks said sales at stores open at least one year jumped 9% year-over-year. Same-store sales, also known as comps, is a key metric in the food and beverage retail business. Starbucks' reported comps growth easily beat analyst expectations for growth of 6% in the line item.

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Somewhat tangentially, a reader named Steve A. sounded off about Starbucks baristas not actually being true baristas, drawing a comparison between the espresso makers they use to vending machines. Starbucks wants "their drinks to be consistent but

the espresso machines take the individuality away from the barista."

A barista who works in a Starbucks location that has already put the new guidelines into practice told the

Journal

that working on a maximum of two drinks at a time has "doubled the amount of time it takes to make drinks in some cases," and that his customers now wait in longer lines.

Another barista whose store has yet to employ the new rules told the newspaper he was concerned about his ability to keep up with the volume of customers if only making one beverage at a time. "While I'm blending a frappuccino, it doesn't make sense to stand there and wait for the blender to finish running, because I could be making an iced tea at the same time," he said.

Starbucks maintained that its new drink-making protocol will lead to more consistent beverages made in a time-efficient manner, and that the drinks will be fresher and hotter, even if some customers will have to wait longer for certain drinks like no-foam lattes.

Slowing down their barista's coffee-making techniques is not the only change to be implemented by Starbucks as of late.

In a separate endeavor,

Starbucks is looking to start selling regional wine and beer, and a selection of local cheeses served on China tableware.

>>Starbucks Tests Alcohol, Cheese Offerings

Starbucks, intending the stores to be more of an all-day café than a traditional Starbucks, has already outfitted several locations in this manner -- including one on Olive Way in its hometown Seattle's Capitol Hill area. The test store's barista bar was rebuilt so customers can sit at and around it, conversing with the baristas and watching them prepare drinks, much like customers at a traditional bar would do.

The new store was designed to look like it had been a part of the neighborhood for years, with a "green" design and sustainability-minded décor.

If the refurbished location proves successful, Starbucks could make moves to expand the updated concept to other Starbucks locations, according to a report in

USA Today

.

It could also help Starbucks tap into the afternoon and evening markets of store traffic, where a customer may come in for a $4 cup of coffee on the way to work in the morning, then stop back for a $9 glass of wine and a cheese plate on the way home.

Starbucks also recently announced last month that it would raise prices on some of its menu offerings to offset rising commodity costs.

The Seattle-based chain said the increases would be targeted to "certain beverages in certain markets" in response to the recent jump in the price of green arabica coffee, which it said was close to a 13-year high. It also noted volatility in the cost of other key ingredients, such as sugar, dairy products and cocoa, as a factor in its decision.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to

@miriamsmarket

.

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