On February 26, 2008, Starbucks closed 7,100 of its doors. I remember it as Black Tuesday. OK, it wasn’t like the stock market crashed or the Great Depression hit and we were emptying out tanker trucks of milk in the streets. But that evening from 5:30 to 9pm, they closed their doors for ‘retraining’. Starbucks Chairman and Chief Executive Howard Schultz said, “We closed all of our U.S. Company-operated stores to teach, educate and share our love of coffee, and the art of espresso. And in doing so, we will begin to elevate the Starbucks experience for our customers.” The next morning, Starbucks began promising customers that their drink would be made perfect every time. If not, the baristas would remake it correctly.
At the 3 1/2 hour training sessions, managers instructed workers to make sure it takes between 15 to 19 seconds for each espresso shot to pour from the machine so they come out ‘like honey dripping from a spoon’. They encouraged workers to only steam fresh milk (not resteam milk), to let espresso shots sit for no longer than 10 seconds, and to pour foam into drinks instead of scooping it with a spoon.
They also told baristas to thank customers, smile, and make eye contact when they hand off their drinks.
Last weekend I talked to a local barista his retraining experience. "They came in and ripped out the guts to all our machines. They retooled everything so that every barista will make every espresso taste exactly the same. Hopefully, we’ll all have better consistency with the taste of our drinks from now on.
And after reading Len Sweet’s The Gospel According to Starbucks, I’m left to wonder what to do with that.
After years of ministry, how many leaders at the top of the chain have shut the doors in favor of really retooling how we ‘service’ our communities? What would happen if your ministry shut down one weekend so you could meet and re-train your volunteers? What if you called off your evening activities so leaders could meet to refocus and refresh their vision and passion for reaching people for the Kingdom? Schultz said they closed in order to ‘teach, educate, and share our love of coffee, and the art of espresso’. I wonder what would happen if we got off the treadmill long enough to ‘teach, educate, and share our love of Jesus and the art of ministry’?
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