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Espresso Yourself: Starbucks Takes a Break

By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The unthinkable happened yesterday: Nearly every Starbucks across the country shut down.

Not forever -- just for 3 1/2 hours in the evening for employee training -- but that was long enough to throw America into collective withdrawal.

"I need that coffee. And it's closed. I gotta complain," said Anthony Isaac, 49, of Upper Marlboro, standing in the cold outside the locked doors of the Starbucks at 15th and K streets NW.

Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz has bigger worries. Namely, the company's slowing sales, falling stock price and the 100 locations that actually will close for good as the nation faces Starbucks saturation. Besides, Schultz had already drunk his cup -- aged Sumatra, to be exact.

He described imbibing each "velvety mouthful" on Monday in Starbucks's Transformation Agenda Communication #8. The memo laid out the principles of what the flailing company is calling "Espresso Excellence."

"We are the coffee that brings people together every day around the world to foster conversation and community," he wrote. "We will revisit our standards of quality that are the foundation for the trust that our customers have in our coffee and in all of us."

Apparently, achieving Espresso Excellence required closing 7,100 Starbucks outlets from 5:30 to 9 p.m. so that baristas can practice steaming milk. The company helpfully suggested fun activities that customers could do while they waited for stores to reopen:

Go to a salon and get highlights.

Roast a turkey.

Clean out a closet.

Meanwhile, rival Dunkin' Donuts shops had their own ideas. They ran a special for 99-cent small lattes.

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