Does anyone actually like Starbucks' food?

The company will overhaul its menu after buying the La Boulange bakery chain. It's about time.

By Kim Peterson Jun 5, 2012 3:03PM
Starbucks (SBUX) has a big problem that it's taking major steps to fix: Its food just isn't that good.

The Atlantic once described Starbucks' pastry selection as "embarrassingly sawdust-y." A Chowhound discussion over whether Starbucks makes any good food came up short. "I have never had anything that tasted 'real' at Starbucks," observed one commenter.

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Starbucks' roots are in coffees and other beverages. That's what made the company the giant it is. But give the company credit for constantly working on improving its food -- and now, it's just made one of its biggest investments ever in food quality.

The company is spending $100 million to buy the 19-store La Boulange bakery chain. La Boulange is based in San Francisco -- a city that knows food -- and gets pretty good reviews there for lobster sandwiches, coconut macarons, truffled macaroni and cheeseburgers with blue cheese and caramelized onions.

Starbucks plans to reinvent its menu with La Boulange products. It's a big move, and one that will completely change its food offerings. "We will demonstrate romance and deliver fresh food for our customers in ways that we have not done in 40 years," CEO Howard Schultz told analysts in a conference call Monday announcing the deal.
Starbucks' shareholders didn't respond well to the news. The stock was down nearly 3% Tuesday to $52.40. "Needless to say, we have overarching concerns of distraction from the core coffee platform and/or damage to the existing customer experience, similar to concerns from other recent non-coffee initiatives," wrote Barclays analyst Jeffrey Bernstein in a note obtained by Barron's.

That's absurd. Already, about a third of Starbucks' customer transactions involve food. Customers want something to go with their lattes, and better food will continue to drive sales. Starbucks' core coffee business is maturing, and the company is branching out into juice and grocery stores to keep profits growing. It needs to branch out into improved food as well.

Starbucks can do better than pre-made sandwiches in plastic wrap and bland pastries. I can't wait to see what Schultz is planning.

More from MSN Money

Jun 5, 2012 5:06PM
Once again MSN's low journalistic standards allow them to publish Starbucks press releases as news. Pathetic. Starbucks is the Walmart of fast food--except Starbucks pretends like they are good corporate citizens with endless dishonest marketing campaigns. Loved the campaign for job create that asked CUSTOMERS to donate money to fund it--when their CEO alone made $65 million dollars in 2011. Won't be long before Schultz ruins this new business too.
Jun 5, 2012 5:04PM
I am excited about this. I get Starbucks lattes and sandwiches or croissants pretty regularly for breakfast on the way to work, and their food really does leave a lot to be desired. The croissants are stale and the sandwiches are clearly made with some sort of powdered "egg product." Charging twice what I would pay elsewhere for a sausage sandwich, I expect at least a real egg. I am thrilled to hear that they are upgrading the food menu, it's about time!!!
Jun 5, 2012 5:01PM

I hope they keep some breakfast items that aren't loaded with fat and sugar.

Their egg white turkey bacon on english muffin is great as well as their oatmeal.  I'd hate to see them replaced by cakes and donuts.

Jun 5, 2012 4:59PM
Starbucks coffee is bitter, burnt-tasting, and overpriced. Their food isn't any better. It's baffling to me how popular they are when there are so many other places to get better, cheaper coffee.
Jun 5, 2012 4:52PM

I can make coffee just like Starbucks at home. I just add 25 percent more coffee than I usually do. My schedule got so I was going to Starbucks quite a bit. The caffeine buzz I get seems to be stronger there.

I don't really like the coffee, so now that my schedule is "normal" I drink coffee at home.


Tried their food. It's awful.

Jun 5, 2012 4:30PM
If their coffee wasn't so bad, it would be okay.....we call it "Charbucks" here in California.   Hope they don't "burn" their food like they do their coffee!!  EEECH!
Jun 5, 2012 4:29PM
I never tried their food. I don't waste my money at Starbuck's...
Jun 5, 2012 4:20PM
I have to agree that many of Starbucks' donuts, muffins & pastries are dry & terrible!  However, most of their cake-type offerings (lemon & raspberry pound cakes) are consistently good.  In addition, Starbucks serves my hands-down favorite fast food sandwich item anywhere -- the roasted tomato & mozzarella panini.  After warming in their oven, the bread is consistently crispy, the filling is warm and slightly melty.  Perfect!  Hope they keep this -- or something similar.
Jun 5, 2012 4:16PM

This will all come down to execution.  If Starbucks can open a few Panera-style shops that sell decent pastries and sandwiches, it could work.  Any given market will only need a few of these restaurant-stores, which can supply the smaller shops with fresh baked goods daily.  I think a large scale up-conversion would prove unsuccessful due to the enormous cost and dramatic change in customer experience.  But, I don't see why they cant have the best of both worlds. 


Aren't they supposed to start selling booze soon?  A beer and a sandwich at Starbucks would be an interesting experience. 

Jun 5, 2012 3:26PM
one of our local shops offers a pumpkin bread(farmed out the making) and it goes sooooo well with some of their heavier flavored coffees... have had 1 of their sandwhiches  & it was ok
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