Was I Wowed At Donald Stephens Convention Center Starbuck’s?

img_1277Last month, my wife and I were attending an Irish Dancing Feis at the Donald Stephens Convention Center with some relatives. After one of the Irish dances, I noticed some Feis attendees with the ubiquitous Starbuck’s cup. She asked me to fetch her a cup of Earl Grey tea. After connecting the dots, I walked across this large warehouse building with poor acoustics and then downstairs to locate a Starbuck’s.

As I proceeded to the coffee and tea purveyor, my expectations were all over the coffee map. I did not think I’d be the only one in line. I knew it would take 5-10 minutes or longer. However, living in the Chicago area for almost 3 decades, things are frequently hard and challenging. I waited about 30 minutes before I ordered. In fact, once it was my turn, I had to concentrate to order Earl Grey for my wife. I could have acted like a millennial and been glued to my phone while occasionally shuffling my feet forward and been oblivious to the amount of time spent just getting an espresso or cappuccino. Nevertheless, know, I wanted to be a mere observer, looking at young ladies in line, observing the ambience and pace of Starbuck’s and taking it all in. 

img_1281As I’m making my way to the front, I’m noticing much merchandise on display for sale of course. No idea of the cost as it’s not priced or it’s not priced in a way that consumers can easily ascertain. I seen this sometimes in smaller retailers and airports and politely say the price tag is missing and their response ranges from “Never noticed it or, I have no idea, I just work here, or I can check the price for you.” Often, they miss the point. When I value shop, I process whether something is a good value and one key component is price. If items are not priced, my retail gauge is often way off. 

img_1272Continuing to wait with a semblance of patience, I notice the special wood branded on some of their tables. Interesting although I don’t know what to make of it. I wonder if these teenage dancers notice the special branding of Reclaimed Urban Wood after adjusting their hair, makeup and specially designed dance outfits.

I’m telling the truth by saying this purveyor of coffee, tea and snack items had no more Earl Grey at my time of ordering. Seriously? Yes, they had all the hot water East of O’Hare but no more Earl Grey tea on a glorious Saturday in October. I smiled and mentally conjured up how much space a box of Earl Grey tea would usurp. I took an alternative dark tea knowing my wife would have been satisfied with any dark tea in lieu of having such a long wait. 

Perhaps in the future, why not have an automated machine inside the restaurant for those individuals who want a basic coffee but would rather not spend too much time in line for a fancy drink? While imagining some improvements, I’m just keeping my mind occupied during this experience.

img_1279The tip jar was empty. Look, I will not fault the employees for the fact this restaurant at time contained a line of about 60 customers. Which meant that, for the most part, you had three employees servicing each of these requests? I’m guessing some were straightforward and others would require much more time than the typical request.

I’m a simple guy with simple coffee tastes. I don’t mind getting a bitter cup of coffee with or without crème. If crème is available, I may splurge but it’s not a requirement. Sometimes I have a sweet tooth and add honey or sugar to the mix but that’s an exception at a restaurant or at home. Once I did order, my coffee of the day (French Roast) in the Venti size was $3.50. I typically order the 20 ounces of coffee to brush up on my Italian and keep me occupied for quite some time. Keeping track of those things as I typically get the largest coffee of the day, it’s typically $2.20 or $2.50. That’s the most I’ve ever spent on that item. In fact, the Orlando, Milwaukee or Chicago airports all have that item for less than $3.00. Even a few Starbucks in mid-town Manhattan was under $3. Crazy world we live in.

I’m not a fool to expect an apology from any of the staff — it just often sets up eventual disappointment. Of course an apology would be more customer centric, but I’m not counting on it. Anyway, I’m wondering if Starbuck’s management tracks what events take place at the Donald Stephens Center and the amount of business they do with each event. I understand they don’t want to be overstaffed and provide high-quality service if it means their labor costs will be much greater, cutting into their profit. If there are certain events that take place generating double or triple the service traffic, perhaps planning could improve service and help maximize profit.

img_1274Maybe that’s too much work to do. Maybe the key ingredient making the fall such a hectic time can be contributed to the pumpkin spice craze. Maybe the key is being fully staffed during the season between summer and winter to ensure the customers and retailers win and that they never run out of pumpkin spice.


Kevin Schwarm

I have over 25 years of professional experience in business, information technology (IT), and customer service. Industry experience in retail, medical insurance, higher education, non-profit, financial services, and property and casualty insurance. Customer focused professional interested in providing value (save time, money and aggravation) by evaluating and analyzing information, services and products with a unique perspective.