Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hope the Ottawa U's MBAs Don't Work at this Starbucks

I quite often pass by the giant Starbucks logoed lightbox mounted in the window of the University of Ottawa's Demarais building overlooking OC Transpo's southbound Laurier Transitway station. I wonder if this newish  Starbucks (55 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa) is any good?  Does it sate the caffeine addicted student clientele looking for relief?  Do the notoriously cash strapped student customers skip Starbucks' reputation of high brow and high priced over whipped caffeinated beverages?  There was only one way to find out.

Today I stopped off at the Desmarais building to find the Starbucks.  I entered Desmarais via the Laurier Street entrance and worked my way around to the Waller Street (Transitway) side to find the Starbucks.  A nice modern airy feeling with plenty of spots for students to pull up their laptops, enjoy some caffeine and work on projects either alone or in pairs. But during busier times I would imagine this Starbucks would quickly run out of seating room as there were approximately only seats for 20-30 people.

The line though was about ten customers long. There were four Starbucks employees working the counter with two cashs open, one employee on coffee bar and one running.  The first little bit the line seemed to move forward somewhat at a decent pace until I was third in line.  Then for some reason one of the employees decided he didn't want to do cash anymore and went over to the condiment and lid section to wipe that down while ten customers waited in line.  Sure another employee was starting by washing their hands, but the line then slowed down again.  The hand washing employee seemed to disappear to the back only to be seen later restocking the front display case. Really? Management has two employees doing cleanup during a break in classes as students (read: this location's main customer base) are filing in looking to buy?  Really?

Eventually I get to the front and place my order.

The Order: 1 Tall Blonde Roast.

The runner came back with my coffee soon after paying.  I ventured over to the condiment and lid section to be a little more perplexed.  The old "which lid would fit my cup" query surfaced.  There were four choices to choose from.  Normally at a fast food location like Starbucks and McDonald's that offers this Price is Right type of game, I fail at. On the first attempt I usually end up choosing the wrong sized lid and wastefully throwing it out instead of putting it back like a board of health bandit. At this Starbucks the bottom two holders of the lids had faint writing telling which one it is.  It looked like someone, once upon a time weeks or maybe even a year ago, wrote in labels in chalk for the lids right on the lid stack holders.  These labels, of course, have faded over time and the top two have totally evaporated.   I made my guess and, success, I was right! I covered my cup and left.

Overall, this Starbucks is in a prime location right on a major street at a university coupled with a major transit station nearby.  Added to this the frustrating length of lines at the Tim Hortons location at the University Centre (85 Universite Private, Ottawa) with only one cash and two or three workers stuck in a corner and this Starbucks location a short walk away looks like organized heaven.  But the Starbucks service needs some fine tuning.  There needs to be overlap of employees coming on and leaving so that the cleanup of the condiment and lid station, restocking baked goods display and general tidyness of the tables is attended to.  Surely it doesn't take a University of Ottawa Telfer School of Business MBA degree to know this theory and put it into practice.

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