Starbucks vs Caribou

June 8, 2020

Starbucks goes beyond providing quality drinks

Imagine this: you are sitting in a tucked away corner at your local Starbucks. Your drink has long been finished, and you are debating whether or not to buy another one. With finals coming up, Starbucks has been your go-to place to study as it creates a cozy and serene atmosphere that enables you to focus without distraction. Established in 1971, Starbucks has long been one of the more popular places to study or grab a quick drink. 

With a variety of drinks from coffee to tea, there is something for everyone’s taste. Using an infinite number of flavor combinations, Starbucks has the ability to create almost any drink with their multitude of flavored powders and syrups. Especially popular for their seasonal products, Starbucks draws attention to their unique beverages. Among traditional coffee shop favorites, some examples of the more unique seasonal flavors include their Pumpkin Spice collection available in fall and their Peppermint Mocha, a part of their winter variety. 

What’s more, compared to competitor Caribou Coffee’s mere 700 locations, Starbucks has amassed over 9,000 stores in the US alone, and 30,000 worldwide. With the high amount of stores, Starbucks is able to put more effort into ensuring the quality of their products through initiatives aimed at helping the communities around the farms they get their materials from.

Lily Simmons

In addition to providing a serene environment, Starbucks has good business practices by ensuring that the source of their coffee is kept in pristine condition. Starbucks strives to achieve what they call “Ethical Sourcing” by sharing information that aids farmers in their crop yields, and has even gone far enough to be awarded 2018’s Most Ethical Company by the Ethisphere Institute. On top of that, Starbucks has started initiatives aimed at raising the sustainability of farming, including one that works to provide disease-resistant trees.

As well as aiding local farmers, the practice of increasing the sustainability of coffee farming ensures that Starbuks always has a steady supply of coffee, tea, and other materials used to produce their goods. With farms around the world and measures in place to ensure smooth production, Starbucks has created a safety net that guarantees the smooth running of the company, which allows high schoolers to rest easy knowing they can rely on Starbucks to carry their favorite beverage. 

Aside from helping the farms that contribute to their success, Starbucks boasts extraordinary resources for their employees. One way they do this is through their College Achievement Plan, which provides baristas who work at least 20 hours a week an opportunity to study towards their bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University, free of charge. With over 80 possible areas of study, baristas have a variety of fields to choose from. Using their College Achievement Plan, Starbucks is not only able to give back to suppliers, but also to the workers that run the stores. 

On top of providing a chance at free education, Starbucks goes beyond the basics when it comes to training employees. Starbucks’ baristas are put through extensive training in order to be effective baristas. Aspects of their training include education on emotional intelligence and the history of coffee. The coffee chain provides an array of training sessions in order to prepare baristas for the challenge of dealing with difficult customers and providing the best experience possible for those who go to Starbucks.

When deciding where to get your morning cup of Joe, consumers should also take into account the fact that Starbucks competitor Caribou has historically been untrustworthy in terms of keeping customer’s information secure. In 2018, Caribou notified customers that there had been a leak of credit card numbers, leading customers to question the security of the company’s information.

Caribou Coffee is no match to Starbucks when it comes to reliability and quality. With farms from Costa Rica to Ethiopia, Starbucks takes pride in the quality of their food and beverages, while still maintaining their dedication to being a time efficient restaurant. According to the Starbucks website, their mission is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time,” which is achieved through their partnership with farms around the world, and their commitment to making the Starbucks experience memorable for not only customers, but staff as well.

Choose Caribou to avoid the ‘bucks

Starbucks versus Caribou is an age old debate, though the differences between the two can seem minute to the untrained eye. In a competitive market, it can’t be surprising that the rivalry has created two very similar chains. However, a closer look at Caribou offers evidence in its favor that can’t be discounted.  

The most obvious criteria when assessing coffee shop superiority must be beverage quality; I believe that Caribou’s drinks are better, though this includes a hefty range of beverages to examine. While people may rave about Starbucks’ holiday cups, what they contain is much more important than their exterior. For example, I am a firm believer in the fact that Caribou has always had significantly better hot chocolate than Starbucks. The flavor is much richer and more robust as the company focuses more on their flavors than the excessive sugar content that Starbucks favors. The whipped cream alone is reason enough to choose Caribou; it’s on an entirely different level than Starbucks’. Also, the seasonal Ho Ho Mint Mocha far exceeds any of Starbucks’s mochas. Overall, the drinks are simply better—more flavorful, rich, and innovative. 

Lily Simmons

A comprehensive look at coffee brands must include factors beyond product taste. Most coffeeshops today are essentially treated as coworking spaces. This is another area that I find Caribou excels at. Take one look at the new location on Vernon Avenue, complete with an electric fireplace, and you would find difficulty in disagreeing that Caribou doesn’t offer a great atmosphere. Their locations typically offer a variety of seating options and useful amenities like electrical outlets at every table. Beyond even this, Caribou is much more homey than Starbucks. While it does offer a relaxing environment, this is brought to a literal sense with the realization that Caribou was started in Edina and remains a largely Minnesota-based company. According to the Caribou website, Minnesota contains an overwhelming 298 of the company’s 465 locations, even as Caribou has expanded to 18 more states. The aforementioned Vernon Avenue location even has a large Edina themed mural on the wall behind its shop. Caribou is personalized to Minnesota in a way Starbucks could never be. 

It can be easy to look at a brand new building like the Vernon Avenue Caribou and say that it has a good atmosphere; however, I find this to be consistent across most locations. Many have a trivia question every day, which doesn’t offer a bountiful award ($0.05) but nevertheless introduces something a hectic Starbucks location can’t offer. A lot of stores have quirky activities similar to this, such as the Caribou on France Avenue, which has a checkers table and chalkboard question that you can answer. 

Beyond atmosphere, price is also a large component to consider when taking into account your coffee choices, and Caribou’s rewards program consistently offers better deals. These include size upgrades or even something as simple as $1-2 off. Starbucks rarely offers similar discounts to their customers. They also require a grand 150 points (a $75 equivalent) to acquire a free drink through their rewards while Caribou only requires 120 points (a $60 equivalent).  

Furthermore, looking at a brand’s sourcing could potentially be one of the most important factors to consider. As of 2012, the farms Caribou sources from are all Rainforest Alliance Certified, according to BusinessWire. In order to attain a certification of this nature, farms are required to practice environmental, economic, and social sustainability. This proves that Caribou goes beyond the average coffee shop and takes their responsibility in promoting sustainability seriously. While Starbucks now has similar standards, Caribou was the first major coffee shop chain to source coffee 100% sustainably. 

Overall, Caribou’s higher quality beverages are backed by ethical standards, they offer more deals through their rewards program, and the company offers better location atmosphere; Caribou far surpasses Starbucks in nearly every criteria. 

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