Consumer Products

The Starbucks Dirty Bathroom Problem

Dirty bathrooms make customers of most establishments which have them less likely to be repeat customers, almost certainly. For gas stations, this may not be as much of a problem. People don’t eat or drink gas. Restaurants and fast food establishments are another matter. Dirty bathrooms threaten repeat visits and damage brands. Starbucks has a dirty bathroom problem.

Starbucks has over 15,000 locations in the U.S. The company owns about 9,000. The balance of stores are licensed. Starbucks might argue that it does not have much control over the licensed stores. If so, in terms of sanitary operations, that is a shame.

Starbucks may also argue that an occasional dirty bathroom is a small problem. Management may also say it cannot police every location every hour and even every day. However, a customer lost may be a customer who goes to McDonald’s or the local coffee shop.

One would think Starbucks has enough problems. It chews through CEOs. Current interim CEO Howard Schulz has cycled in and out three times since 1986. Likely, he is the one who pushes for the board to force out people who are not up to his standards. Schulz has had a rough ride this time. Labor problems have plagued Starbucks. Schulz also claims the stores could operate and begin installing new coffee-making machines and “improving” training. Regardless of his plans, shares have dropped about 20% since he returned.

Starbucks needs to decide whether minor problems make the public believe it does not care about the essentials of making and serving food to the public. If it believes the problem of dirty bathrooms is too hard to address, then the Starbucks brand faces a problem — which it may already have.

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