Coffee and cigarettes are hand-in-hand products, almost perfect complements to each other; both providing their users with deflated wallets and horrible breath. Walk around any city or town in the early morning and you will undoubtedly observe multiple people enjoying both vices concurrently. There have even be major films entitled ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’. In popular culture, the pair is like Ben and Jerry, Beef & Broccoli, Shoes and socks. Unlike those other relationships, coffee and cigarettes are not a unanimously accepted pair. There are definitely many coffee drinkers who find cigarette smokers repulsive, and perhaps vice versa. Still, with such an inherent blend in product culture, one would assume most coffee shops would welcome cigarette smokers to their establishment without limits. If a company really wanted to thrive, maybe they’d pursue a pack-and-mug combination, giving the fiends their fix in an orderly fashion. Yet Starbucks has recently implemented a polar opposite plan…
On June 1, 2013, Starbucks initiated their ban of smoking on premises. This policy, which prohibits patrons from smoking within 25 feet of a Starbucks establishment, will take affect company-wide immediately. According to the Wall Street Journal, “roughly 7,000 company-operated cafes in the US” have adopted this policy. This does not include “licensed stores” which are those locations found in larger establishments such as Barnes & Noble or Target. Many Starbucks locations contain outdoor seating areas, which provide space for customers to sprawl out, enjoy their coffee, the weather, and finish any pending work. These areas will officially be off-limits to cigarette smoke.
From an organizational standpoint this decision comes as quite a surprise. Although Starbucks consumers, and coffee drinkers for that matter, are primarily mobile customers; many enjoy the comforts of the establishment. As a company, Starbucks promotes itself as inviting and welcoming, allowing customers to make use of their Wi-Fi and use their stores as work sites. One should not presume that all coffee drinkers are cigarette smokers, yet it is a fairly safe assumption that those who consume both make up a rather significant portion of Starbucks’ client base. Starbucks is essentially alienating this faction of their customers through the implementation of this new policy. Many customers may suddenly feel unwelcomed at a place they once visited frequently. This policy states, on the surface, that those customers can take their business elsewhere, or buy their coffee and take it on the road. A Starbucks spokeswoman stated, “we take pride in providing a comfortable environment at our stores where customers and members of the community gather.” In an attempt to appease the community at large, (which is most commonly against smokers) the company has distanced itself from this portion of their customers. It is probably safe to assume that a corporation as prominent as Starbucks did the necessary market research prior to making such a bold decision, but that does not eliminate the chance that this choice could come with major backlash.