How did Starbucks 'fall from grace'?

The coffee giant faces lower quarterly sales. Is it the economy, or have the drinks grown stale?

Customers sit at a Starbucks coffee store
Howard Schultz, the former CEO, is weighing in with advice
(Image credit: Xavi Lopez / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images)

Starbucks is not just a coffee giant — it's the coffee giant. But the giant isn't feeling so well these days. "Starbucks' growth seemed unstoppable" during the pandemic, said The New York Times, but latte addicts now seem to be pulling back: The company's revenue dropped 1.8% in the first quarter of 2024, driven by falling same-store sales in the United States and abroad. "This quarter's results do not reflect the power of our brand, our capabilities or opportunities ahead," said Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan.

Narasimhan's recently retired predecessor, Howard Schultz — a onetime celebrity CEO and nearly a candidate for president in 2020 — is weighing in with some advice on what he calls Starbucks' "fall from grace," said Heather Haddon at The Wall Street Journal. "The stores require a maniacal focus on the customer experience, through the eyes of a merchant," Schultz wrote in a LinkedIn post. That means company executives should "spend more time working in cafes" and work to improve Starbucks' mobile app. The advice raised some eyebrows: "Former CEOs tend to keep a low profile to give their successors room to make their mark," Haddon said.  

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Joel Mathis, The Week US

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who has spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His work also regularly appears in National Geographic, The Kansas City Star and Heatmap News. His awards include best online commentary at the Online News Association and (twice) at the City and Regional Magazine Association.