An Open Letter to Howard Schultz: Is Starbucks starting to lose its mission again?

Dear Howard,

Firstly, I have to say, your book, Onward has been a huge source of inspiration, guidance & thought creation for me. I personally connected to your story so much and have been so inspired by how you and your team have refocused around Starbucks mission –

to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time

I’ve loved seeing how Starbucks has grown within this over the past few years since you worked as a collective to write your mission.

And since then, I’ve been able to see that every decision you have made has passed what Simon Sinek call’s the celery test:


As a huge lover of the Starbucks experience – the coffee, the environment, the staff – I obviously have & regularly use the rather brilliantly designed Starbucks app.

And then on Monday, I got the following e-mail:



And I have to admit at first I was very excited. I had seen the news about this development in the US and I was very excited to see it finally arrive in the UK. But there was then this little feeling in my gut – it didn’t feel right. So I started to think this through – how does this fit within Starbucks’ celery test.

By pre-ordering drinks, I will start to reduce the time that I spend in the store. It will be like a fast-food type approach for getting my coffee.

But that’s not what the Starbucks experience is about. 

The Starbucks experience is about the interaction with the friendly staff. It’s about giving my name to the barista to create that personal relationship and then them calling my name when my personalised drink is ready. It’s about being in the third place and using the time in the queue to get away from work and home, and just be in that third place.

If I just wanted a fast service to fly in, grab a coffee and run out again, I would go to a fast-food outlet. And sometimes I do, if I am in a real rush.

But that’s not Starbucks to me. Starbucks is about being Starbucks. It’s about Starbucks being it’s why

to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time


I’m hoping that when you and your management made the decision to bring in skip the queue, that you funneled this decision through your why to make sure it passed your celery test.

Unfortunately, to me, it doesn’t. I just hope that this is the start of a slide for Starbucks back to 2008.

Now is the moment to take a hard look at Starbucks’ why again and realign your business decisions. Please don’t let your why go. Hold on to it, treasure it, nurture it, and let it guide you.

We are all wishing you well.


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