Cambridgeside Starbucks’ Perfect Oatmeal Isn’t

This is the third time in a row I haven’t gotten nuts or raisins with my “Perfect” oatmeal at the Cambridgeside Galleria Starbucks. Plus, today it arrived in a ‘tall’ cup, with no where near enough hot (or hot enough) water in it. If you’re a corporate giant labeling something “Perfect”, you’ve gotta do a better job of policing your stores to ensure they actually come close to your goal.

The cup thing was a surprise today, and makes it harder to eat – but from comments the staff was making, it seems to be a regular thing at this Starbucks location. I know it’s in a mall, but it’s still got a significant percentage of regulars from the numerous local offices – so it’s time to step up and do a better job.

I know, not much of a rant, but with a toothache making me consider only soft foods, it’s all I can do for the moment.

Dear Starbucks: please change your oatmeal

Well, not the oatmeal itself, which is not too bad. But please change the cups you serve it in so that they actually fit and stack atop your coffee cup lids.

It’s very difficult to carry a “cuppa and oatmeal”, since the bottom of the oatmeal cup is exactly not-the-right-size to fit over your coffee lid. It sits right on the top: not quite small enough (like the bottom of a coffee cup is) to fit inside the plastic lid; not quite large enough to comfortably wrap around the outside of the plastic lid.

Now I know you spent thousands of dollars carefully engineering your current oatmeal cups to have the perfect colors, cool touch to the hands, exactly-spaced steam vents on the top, and so on, but it’s been two years (as evidenced by the copyright date on the lids), so maybe it’s time for a practical change. Pretty is great, but practical and fitting in with your beverage sizes is even better.

I’d vote for the over-the-lid size, just slightly larger: this serves all customers, since you could securely stick an oatmeal cup atop a cup of coffee and walk out of the store carrying both in one hand. I know some people might suggest the just slightly smaller, so the bottom of the oatmeal is the same as the bottom of a coffee cup, but that doesn’t seem to be as pleasing a proportion for eating out of, even if it would fit into a pressboard 4-cup holder.

Heck, if you tried just a tiny bit of engineering, I’m sure you could put a little lip on a 4-cup holder so that the larger oatmeal cups would also fit in, just slightly higher than cups do.

Yes, Dear Starbucks, I will submit this as an idea for you to steal. Just be sure to keep your wifi throughput up for all of us regulars now that you’ve let the masses in to use it at all your stores.

2 reasons I don’t like Au Bon Pain coffee

I skipped my coffee maker this morning since I came into work early, and decided to stop at the Kendall Au Bon Pain this morning for coffee. I remembered a couple of reasons I hadn’t been drinking their coffee for a while.

It’s not that the coffee’s bad: it’s certainly no paragon of coffee perfection, but it’s a fine chain bakery brew and I do sometimes like their Hazelnut mixed with the French Roast. No, it’s two issues about their materials:

  • Light cream. They serve light cream instead of half and half. While I like my coffee with a moderate amount of half-and-half, I inevitably get the amount of light cream to add instead wrong. 90% of the time I think I’ve got it, and it turns out to be far too white and creamy. Today, I was sure I did it right: a tiny splash of light cream and enough 2% milk to make up for it: nope, now it’s not quite rich enough. Sigh.
  • Cups. ABP cups have a far higher failure rate than other local shops – more often than not while driving or walking to work, I get a steady stream of drips down the seam side of the cup, from right under the edge of the lid. Either the seams are too uneven, or the plastic lids are too inflexible. It’s disappointing, and today I forgot to wrap a napkin around the edge of the cup, and so got dripped today.

What ever happened to the old, old Au Bon Pain, back when the baguettes were really flavorful, and the croissants were rich and buttery? Were they actually better back then, or did it just feel like that because they were one of the first chains to do those foodstuffs justice locally so long ago?

(Drat! I didn’t mention the “p” word, but even though it wasn’t on my mind I talked about croissants anyway, which I suppose counts. Another statistic plus for BHD!)

More than 80’s calories

Two amusing items caught my eye today (well, more than two, but we’ll see how many I can still type straight!)

If you were born before a certain age, then you’ll remember this cartoony yet serious video. Actually, if you’re old enough to read this blog, you probably remember the video; it’s really a function of age across a narrow range that determines if you think of it fondly or with annoyance. Someone’s done a wonderful job of literalistically rewriting the lyrics. Very nice. HT 2 LizR.

Speaking of 80 calories, there are more than 5 times that many calories in a Starbuck’s pumpkin scone – at least in some metro areas. A dear friend who writes a blog about food – well, really “about the cool and interesting people I meet. It’s not really a food blog at all, in fact.” Well he has an interesting little quiz going on about relative calories. Thank goodness I guessed correctly, even before doing my research on teh internetz. Vote your stomach – or your wallet, I suppose – and catch up on the New York food industry scene.

Hey! I just had a brilliant idea! We can snap the stock market out of this whole bad debt crisis and simultaneously solve world hunger! Just buy a few cases of Starbucks baked goods – raising their stock price, and cheering up countless securities traders the world over – and ship them to the hungry. That’ll give a boost to transportation stocks too, and we know it’ll only take a couple of scones per person to make a huge dent in anyone’s calorie deficiency!

Is anyone else worried about Starbucks?

They seem to be in trouble, and I’m not sure what to do. Poor Starbuck!

On one hand, they are closing stores left and right – and even though MA was to be spared, they later announced we are not, losing 7 or more stores locally. On the other hand, I see even more “Help Wanted” signs in their front doors that ever before. Plus they’re pushing more and more benefits to cardholders: free refills, free shots, other giveaways that you never would have seen before.

They come up with a huge marketing thing for their new drink, hoping it can revivify their business. What is this vivivying magic they’ve come up with? A banana smoothie. Not what I expect from such an experienced vendor. You think a smoothie’s going to turn your business around? Think again.

Their desperation is showing in many other ways: when using my card to get my free in-store drip coffee refills, I got not one but three receipts, even though I never normally take them. One for the first cuppa, of course; then two for the refill. Not only did the staff patiently explain about their $2 for any cold grande after 2pm offer, but they also eagerly pressed their customer survey – CustomerVoice! – into my hand. This is about the third time I’ve gotten a survey in the past month, and it’s not like I’m in there daily to account for their sudden interest in my opinion.

Plus, they’re canceling their muffin contract, and ditching their breakfast sandwiches. I know there are a lot of mixed opinions about them – myself included: have you ever gotten a breakfast sandwich at the old ‘Buck that was actually assembled straight? I haven’t. But I still like them, and they’re actually reasonably priced for the ingredients, considering their corporate price levels. That’ll be a sad goodbye to the toasties in the morning some days.

What can we do to help them out? Poor little Starbuck, she’s tough but vulnerable these days.


Oh, wait.

They are an evil corporate giant. Never mind. Let loose the dogs of capitalism, and if you enjoy it, update your schedule to use your card to take your break there: free wifi, free syrup, and the free refills mean it’s a great way to spend an hour in the morning, for those of you who like the coffee there. I mean, it’s good, although Starbucks is not as good as Peet’s.