They say that starting a business is a marathon, not a sprint -- and the long, storied history of how Starbucks became the world's most formidable coffee chain is one long marathon. Much like McDonald's and the chains that came before it, Starbucks isn't without its missteps and failures from time to time. So just what hase worked for Starbucks, and what hasn't? (Credit: Flickr/ kawaiikiri)
Starbucks, which opened in 1971, grew steadily over the years; Starbucks didn't even break into 17 stores until 16 years after opening. And it wasn't even until 1995 that Starbucks began selling￼ a little well-known drink, the Frappuccino. From 1994 to 1996, Starbucks more than doubled its number of stores, from 272 to 677. And with it, came lots of experimentation and new drinks.
And of course, not all of them were winners -- and when we started digging into some of those missteps, we were surprised to see what did click, and what didn't. In fact, some of the ideas, like the Circadia "hidden" restaurants, seem almost too ahead of its time; nowadays, the idea of a discreet, "hipster" coffee shop would probably not be as foreign as it was some 15-plus years ago. (After all, they were serving booze there). And then there were the bottled drinks that Starbucks first forayed into in 1995. But somehow, Pepsi + coffee didn't quite take off.
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Some of these mistakes we'd like to see come back, and others we'd like to see stay far, far away. But for all of its stumblings, Starbucks has nailed quite a few things -- and we mean more than the Frappuccino. Click ahead to see Starbucks' biggest flops, as well as, in our minds, Starbucks' biggest successes.
- Marcy Franklin, The Daily Meal
"A drinkable dessert" that didn't catch on? Seems hard to believe, glancing over Starbucks' current Frappuccino menu. But back in 2005, the variation of the popular European drink had a very short shelf life and was ultimately pulled from Starbucks' lineup in 2006. Said Michelle Gass, Starbucks' senior vice president of category management at the time to CNN Money, "Imagine drinking a melted truffle and you're close to the Chantico chocolate experience." How could that possibly go wrong? The problem: You could only get the Chantico in six-ounce cups, clearly not enough for Supersize Me, "have it your way" America. Don't worry, you can still get plenty of hot chocolate at Starbucks. Click here to see All of Starbucks' Biggest Fails Credit: Flickr/ MajisCup - The Papercup & Sleeve
No, not like the bug (that's a cicada, silly). A hipster coffee shop in Seattle and San Francisco, before that was even a thing! Starbucks Melody shares a bit about the two discreet restaurants opened by Starbucks, back in 1997 and 1998. Circadia Flatbread Oven had everything we'd like to see at a Starbucks today: "a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, a liquor bar, and live music." With velvet couches, Internet connections (before that was even a thing), and a hipster vibe, Circadia was living easy. Starbucks design head Arthur Rubinfeld, told Fortune back in 2000 that the goal was to recreate the 1960s Greenwich Village coffee shop. Of course, those two stores are now fully loaded Starbucks locations today. Uh, can we get the restaurants back please? Credit: Flickr/ sampullara
Despite the popularity of its Starbucks ice creams (counting down the days for that Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte ice cream to hit shelves once again), not all of Starbucks' forays into the freezers have been a success. Its "Pinkberry-inspired" frozen beverage was deemed a flop in 2009, after failing to attract customers in its tested markets in southern California. At the time, Cos La Porta, a Starbucks senior vice president, told the Los Angeles Times that the Sorbetto was just what the customers wanted. Still, insiders pointed out that the timeframe for testing the Sorbetto was miniscule, and that baristas were unhappy with the machines to make the Sorbetto. Insider and blogger Starbucks Melody notes some other factors, like a quickly faltering economy, plus the ambiguous nature of the drink, as reasons for the Sorbetto's failure. We'll stick with the ice cream, thanks. Credit: Flickr/ Crystal Calderon
For a real far-out idea, we head back to 1999 (you know, back when magazines were still a good idea). In a partnership with Time Inc., Starbucks started producing a quarterly print and online magazine, called Joe. CNET shares that the hope was to rival literay mags like Salon, but as time tells, that didn't happen; the publication was shuttered in just three issues. At the time, the Seattle Times reported that "Scott Ferris, vice president for business development and marketing at Starbucks, said the magazine was designed to enhance the historical coffeehouse experience of discussing literature and art." Part of the reason it failed, the Seattle Times said, was that there was no good spot in the store to sell the magazine to customers. You can head to Starbucks Melody to check out the now 14-year old magazine, for a quick blast to the past. Credit: Flickr/ InspirationDC
The ready-to-drink coffee category — eventually. (See the Mazagran slide to find out one that flopped.) Starbucks' support of gay marriage rights (depending on which side of the aisle you're standing on, we guess). Christmas cups. Enough said. The Pumpkin Spice Latte. (Is it fall yet?) Click here to see All of Starbucks' Biggest Fails Credit: Flickr/ aki.sato
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