Starbucks’ efficient use of competitive intelligence, which involves buying only the finest coffee beans, extraordinary consumer service, expansion and acquisition, has constantly aided the company keep its edge over its closest competitors. Starbucks prides itself in selecting only the best coffee beans. Choosing the world’s best arabica coffee beans over the lesser-class robusta has helped the company stay ahead of the competition.
The company’s coffee buyers take great lengths to buy the premium coffee beans, even travelling to coffee-growing areas of Latin America, Africa, Arabia and the Asia-Pacific region to procure the first-class arabica. They pay top dollar, and buy only from a select group. Stringent measures in buying include roasting coffee samples and taste-testing by professionals. Only a few of the tested samples will make it to the roasting facilities, where roasters skilfully create the distinct dark-roast flavour.
While most of its competitors rely much on basic ingredients, Starbucks has added an extra something: the element of surprise and delight. Opening its stores an hour earlier than usual, in the wee hours of the morning, to the delight of patrons craving for coffee, waiting patiently on tables or in cars, certainly speaks of the coffee retailer’s attentiveness to its customers’ well-being. Anticipating surprises that customers will truly appreciate illustrates Starbucks’ commitment to exceptional customer service.
Even as coffeehouses continue to mushroom as a result of the people’s growing appetite for specialty coffee drinks, Starbucks pressed its expansion, and by the year 1995, the coffee giant was opening new branches at an average of one store a day (Gilbert 14). One of the most effective ways to stay ahead of the competition is to buy it, and thus eliminate opposition. In 1998, Starbucks bought the Seattle Coffee Company of Britain in stocks worth around $83 million, and in 2003 acquired the American-based Seattle Coffee Company, including Seattle’s Best Coffee and Torrefazione Italia.