Starbucks: Charlie from Bridgeport, WV
Allow me to introduce you to Charlie (photographed with permission by yours truly). Charlie is a barrista.
Scratch that. Charlie is a coffee guru. He knows coffee and espresso. He's passionate. Truly enthusiastic about coffee. It is obvious to anyone that Charlie loves what he does.
Wednesday afternoon, we made it a point to visit Charlie's Starbucks in Bridgeport, West Virginia. We've been following this whole Starbucks turnaround, along with several other bloggers, with great interest.
And so, on this cold, damp, windy March Wednesday, we wondered: following last week's company wide three-hour training shutdown ...
Would there be any palpable difference?
Had things changed inside this one Starbucks store?
Would we be able to notice anything?
What would employees report about the training episode?
We could not help but get caught up in Charlie's enthusiasm about coffee, as we listened to him advise a patron on choice of beverage. Painting an elaborate and engaging word picture, Charlie built the customer a caramel macchiato ... layer by layer. Ingredient by ingredient. Step by step. At each juncture, Charlie explained how each process and each layer added to the taste, texture and feel of the drink.
After eavesdropping on aforementioned conversation, we talked with (interrupted, quite truthfully) Charlie about the training.
Did last week's three-hour training make a difference? "Yes. The company has traditionally relied on a lot of book learning for new-employee training and orientation," Charlie explained.
"This week's training was hands-on. It allowed our employees to see, touch, feel, smell and hear how to make great espresso. How to serve it. It's one thing to read about it. It's another thing to demonstrate and to try it out. They encouraged us to make some mistakes ... milk that has been oversteamed and such. And to study the goof-ups. We all learned some things. I think it was much needed and it was beneficial."
Charlie continued, "I am really excited about having Howard Schultz personally involved in the business again. That really helps."
The answers to all of our questions had become evident in the form of Charlie and his passion. Kudos to Charlie and everyone everywhere who loves what they do. And here's to marketing genius Howard Schultz: congratulations on building a great brand--and having the pride, commitment and courage to rebuild it.
Post Script - In the name of balance and full disclosure, the staff did not ask our names to assign to our orders, nor did they call us by name to announce our drinks were ready. That would have been a nice touch. But I certainly appreciated the young lady's suggestion of a Peppemint Mocha, and it tasted especially delicious this time. It was richer and I sort of nursed it for about 40 minutes, instead of chugging it.