The McCafé Effect?

Are brewing upgrades at convenience stores and fast food locations, such as McDonalds and McCafe, a reaction to consumer demand, or are they an innovation?

By Rob Stephen

In 2007, I was hired by a convenience store client of mine to fly to North Carolina on a “secret mission.” My task was to spend the day driving around to four different Raleigh-Durham, N.C. area McCafe stores and…drink the coffee. At the time, these four stores were some of the only McCafes to be found in North America, so these out of the way stores were probably visited by more than a few coffee company executives. I don’t have to imagine the bemused look on the counter staff’s faces as they fielded geeky coffee-related questions, because I witnessed it firsthand.

As I asked questions of increasing difficulty about the products and processes in the store, it became apparent to me that the staff had been trained to the same basic level that the average coffeehouse employee might be trained to after a week or two. They weren’t going to impress me with extensive coffee knowledge, but they weren’t going to embarrass themselves either. Sure, the “espresso” came from a super-automatic with a very quick pour, and the milk was steamed automatically. But, I got the same beverage in all four stores, and it came without any cup defects…or attitude. To read the rest of this article, subscribe to The Chronicle or become a member today! If you’re already a Chronicle subscriber or member, please login.

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