Hearing complaints, Starbucks tweaks breakfast

Earth to Starbucks: Americans don't want smaller, healthier breakfast pastries. Bring back the good stuff.

The chain is learning a tough lesson when it comes to feeding customers in the morning. Doughnuts and that 500-calorie iced-lemon cake are winners. The wheat-spinach croissants and savory squares, well, they just didn't do much for some people.

So the company is tweaking its breakfast menu to bring back some of the old favorites, Bloomberg News reports. The slices of banana, pumpkin and iced-lemon loaf cake are back in stores starting this week.

And the high-falutin offerings from Starbucks' La Boulange unit will be retooled. Starbucks bought the San Francisco bakery for $100 million in 2012, convinced that customers would go for more European-style pastries. Many didn't.

One Illinois resident interviewed by Bloomberg said the new croissants tasted "a little bit like croissants you might get on an airplane."

The OC Weekly wasn't as polite, calling La Boulange "the most disgusting breakfast on Earth." The La Boulange items were too greasy and buttery, writes Dave Lieberman:

Perhaps if we all ignore it, Starbucks will put these unkillable pastries in reserve for their takeover after global thermonuclear war (which will cause the fat in the pastries to melt and render them at least marginally edible) and find a way to purchase locally produced sweets that don't need long preservation and don't highlight the horrendous, bitter burnt quality of their coffee.
Starbucks is especially sensitive to customer complaints about its food these days because breakfast is currently the fiercest battleground in fast food. Taco Bell made a huge splash in this area recently with the rollout of its new Waffle Taco and A.M. Crunchwrap.

Burger King is pushing further into breakfast as well, with its Croissan'wiches and muffin sandwiches, and breakfast king McDonald's is trying to maintain its dominance by offering free coffee. Dunkin' Donuts has just debuted an Eggs Benedict breakfast sandwich, with Hollandaise-flavored spread to boot. Jack in the Box is trying to win health-conscious diners with an egg white and turkey breakfast sandwich.

Indeed, there are all kinds of choices available to morning commuters now, and Starbucks was trying to carve its own niche with items like the Vegetable & Fontiago on multigrain ciabatta. "Starbucks, what happened to the old veggie-egg sandwich?" one Twitter user asked. "This veggie-fontiago is not tasty. I don't want tomato sauce on my egg sandwich."

In fact, Starbucks hasn't been able to come up with one killer item on its menu. The company hasn't "struck gold with anything," Bob Goldin, an executive vice president at restaurant research firm Technomic, told Bloomberg. "I don't think they have any sustained momentum in breakfast," he said in an interview. "They do OK."

  • Kim Peterson

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