NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I'm watching Howard Schultz build an empire at Starbucks (SBUX). Outside of Apple (AAPL) and Amazon.com (AMZN), there's not another company -- across spaces -- doing what Starbucks does, as well as it does.Starbucks is a tech company in a retail coffeehouse's clothing. At first blush, you might place them on the same level as Whole Foods Market ( WFM), but Starbucks really is the superior company for the long-term. On most days, I have nothing even remotely negative to say about Whole Foods from consumer and investor perspectives. Love the company. Really like the stock. However, when I conduct a multi-method stock market ethnography that puts Starbucks and Whole Foods side-by-side, I start to see flaws. Let's explore them over a bottle of Cherry Chia Kombucha and a venti Chai Tea Misto, 1/4 hot water, 3/4 steamed soy milk, plenty of foam. We'll get to the all-important Trader Joe's stream of semi-consciousness in a minute, but Starbucks doesn't dominate because of scale and size; it wins because it's cutting edge.
There's no excuse for this shocking reality: Safeway ( SWY) has a pretty solid shopping app -- one you carry with you and use throughout the store -- Whole Foods does not.
Listen, at this point, this is back-of-the-envelope dreaming that I intend to flesh out in future articles. But, it kicks off a larger point -- Whole Foods needs to do more to stay competitive long-term. It owns a lifestyle consumer today -- quite impressively -- but that could change in a flash. It needs to be more like Starbucks from tech and aggressive-strategic growth standpoints. I also understand that messing with the Trader Joe's concept would upset a lot of people. We're passionate about these specialty, gourmet grocery stores. But, trust me, Trader Joe's diehards will get over it. They all shop at Whole Foods anyway (even if they say they don't) and they're the same people who claim to hate Starbucks while sipping a grande, extra-hot, double, skinny, no-foam latte with a shot of peppermint. Follow @rocco_thestreet --Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.