Starbucks Japan reduces amount of brew in some offerings

TOKYO —

Saying customers were complaining about its cups being too full, Starbucks Japan started reducing the amount of java in each pour of drip coffee this month. According to the company, feedback pointed out their full-to-the-brim cups left no room for adding milk and were too easy to spill. Some customers, however, are voicing displeasure about the unannounced reduction to their caffeine fix.

Starbuck Japan spokesperson Norio Adachi said the company redrew its guidelines and began informing employees from Dec 5 to fill short-sized cups of drip coffee to 15 millimeters from the top, a decrease of 9 millimeters from the previous regulation requiring a pour that left the brew just 6 millimeters shy of overflowing. Adachi says the change was implemented without public announcement and there was no plan to inform customers.

A customer questioned at a branch in Tokyo’s Akasaka-Mitsuke district on Dec 18 showed irritation with the change, saying, “I like Starbucks coffee but I think it’s a little expensive. If I have to pay the same price I’d prefer a fuller cup.”

Due to steep rises in the cost of coffee beans and other factors, Starbucks Japan increased prices of some of its offerings in 2006, 2008 and again in 2011. The company recorded its highest sales, 57.7 billion yen, and highest net profit, 3.2 billion yen, in the first half of the fiscal year ending March 31, 2001. Its share price has risen about 18% year-to-date and it currently operates 965 stores in the country. The revised guidelines on coffee amounts are limited to stores in Japan only.

The price of the Arabica coffee Starbucks uses is now cheap having plunged more than 50%.

Adachi said, “Customers complained the cups were too full and they were spilling their coffee and burning themselves as a result.” He added the company responded by slightly reducing the amounts served in cups of drip coffee, tea, and Café Americano, drinks which make use of extremely hot water. He further explained the decreased amounts were not part of any “cost-cutting measures.”

We decided to see for ourselves how the new standards were measuring up. A short size cup of drip coffee we purchased at a store in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district on Dec 18 was only filled to 20 millimeters below the brim, well below the company’s new 15-millimeter standard, a potentially unforgiveable sin for some java junkies.

Others, though, are more welcoming to the change. After buying a cup to go, Shuhei Sano, a 32-year-old Tokyo businessman, said, “I didn’t notice right away (that the amount had decreased). Certainly to date I have felt a little uneasy about the very full cups. It’s difficult to drink when the cup is filled to the brim. I’m always cautious, especially when taking the first sip.”

Starbucks doesn’t offer the short size on its menu in the U.S. where the smallest serving is the tall size. An off-menu order of coffee equivalent to the short size offered in Japan retails for $1.70 in Seattle, half what it costs in Tokyo.

For company employee Yumiko Sakaue, 36, coffee is a must in her daily life. Regarding the decreased amount she said, “If I’m paying the same price I want the same amount I was getting before.” She further expressed dissatisfaction by saying she thought the company should have informed customers of the change.

Starbucks’ Adachi said, “We will respond to any dissatisfaction going forward.” He also said if customers directly requested their cups filled to the brim the barista would be happy to comply.

We can probably expect to hear calls of “Fill er up!” at Starbucks across the country in the near future.

Source: Bloomberg

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  • -1

    Yubaru

    The price of the Arabica coffee Starbucks uses is now cheap having plunged more than 50%.

    And their prices haven't dropped either, and now they are short filling cups of coffee too? Hmmmm.....I prefer to make my own coffee and this is just another reason to continue doing so.

    Starbucks coffee is all that great anyway, I'll take my home-brewed any day over theirs!

  • 0

    Yubaru

    Short size and short fills......What they should do is offer a short filled coffee on their menu and drop the price. If someone wants to get burned with an over flowing cup of coffee leave it to them.

  • -2

    Jaymann

    It is a sad, sad indictment on coffee when the best cup around is from Starbucks... McCoffee and nothing more frankly.

  • 6

    gaijinfo

    Saying customers were complaining about its cups being too full,

    You know, it is possible for the sales person to do something OTHER than being a mindless robot, and simply ASK each customer if they want room for cream or sugar. But that would require some THINKING and getting feedback from customers that would not only require MORE THINKING but actually some SPONTANEOUS ACTION based on the customer's response.

    I'm not sure that Japanese customers NOR Japanese sales staff are ready for this. The whole system might come to a screeching halt.

  • 8

    minello7

    The consumers are being ripped off by this multinational coffee chain. Drip coffee is the cheapest form of coffee, the profit margins are huge. McDonalds charge a 100 yen a cup and still make a huge profit (fact,get them to dispute it, they can't)) plus Mcdonalds its a better coffee than Starbucks,this is only my opinion.

  • 2

    Redcliff

    If a short-size drip is double the US$1.70 in US, I assumed that a short-size is equivalent to what we called a small-size then the price of this size coffee is cheaper than in Australia. A small size in Australia cost Aus$3.50 which is approximately equivalent to 310 Yen. Sound like Starbuck is ripping off the Australian more than the Japanese.

  • 3

    yildiray

    Why not just map the cups 9mm larger if they are honestly standing by that excuse?

  • 0

    alladin

    Just another way to rip off the public. Make an excuse for not filling up the coffee to the rim and charge more money. I will never again go to Starbucks in Japan!!!

  • 2

    Ranger_Miffy2

    Sorry, commenters, but I agree with *$$$. I always have to pour out a big slosh just to get the lid on and safely navigate the streets with it.

    However, "gaijinfo" is also right.

    I will always support Starbucks as the coffee is decent and they have 100% NO SMOKING. Why haven't other coffee stores noticed that their stores are always filled with customers and they are making record profits...without capitulating to the Smoking Everywhere lobby.

  • 2

    warispeace

    @minello7

    The consumers are being ripped off by this multinational coffee chain.

    Not just the consumers. The growers are the one who really get ripped off since these huge buyers set the unlivable price on the coffee exchange.

  • 1

    semperfi

    STARBUCKS of ALL chain-coffee shops can afford to be more generous...............That is simply crass greed !!!!!! ........................ THAT is one reason have I avoided going there...............so many other, leass crowded and equally delicious coffee houses .

  • 6

    JeffLee

    Filling to the brim makes no sense if you're like most people and have milk or cream in your coffee.

    I respect Bucks because they had the balls to go ahead with their all no-smoking policy, against the urging of their narrow-minded Japanese consultants.

  • -1

    MeanRingo

    How do you say "No space" in Japanese? Seems like an easy solution to what is barely a problem.

    As one who takes their coffee black I always say "No space" when ordering coffee. If they give me too much space I just throw it in their face and say "What is this crap?". Simple! Baristas love me.

  • 0

    pogogo

    i do not believe that Starbucks is worried about my spilling coffee I have noticed over the past several months less and less in my cup of soy latte. for now i am not buying starbucks. mcdonalds has great coffee and even has refills.

  • -4

    Tessa

    Honestly speaking, I stopped going to Starbucks a couple of years ago because of those ridiculous overflowing paper cups, and also because of the fake friendliness of the staff. I mean, c'mon, I just want my morning brew, I don't need anyone to pretend that he's my new best friend! I thought the coffee was okay, but I liked it better when they offered cream and coffee sugar to go along with it.

  • -3

    basroil

    Simple solution, pour the same amount and just make bigger cups.

  • 1

    Ishiwara

    I prefer the old-style kissaten, with a carefully brewed cup of real coffee, jazz in the background.

  • 0

    gaijintraveller

    Basroil, you are obviously right. I still think the only reason to go to a Starbucks is the quality of the air as a result of the no-smoking policy.

    Are they also reducing the size of the espresso? A double espresso is still almost empty.

  • 4

    Brainiac

    Who cares how much coffee is in the cup? I never notice. I went to Starbucks this morning and they gave me a Christmas card. I like Starbucks because it is a cheerful atmosphere and the girls are always friendly.

  • 2

    Shamhei Sakai

    He further explained the decreased amounts were not part of any "cost-cutting measures."

    Then why didn't they just get bigger cups?

  • 5

    Knox Harrington

    What's the prob? A few drops of coffee missing? Who notices? Starbucks is not bad and you know it's gonna be a more expensive coffee than you can make at home. They also usually have chairs and tables outside - something far to rare in Tokyo.

  • 0

    zichi

    I think I've been to Starbucks once or twice in the last five years. I prefer to find real coffee houses.

  • 6

    JeffLee

    I prefer to find real coffee houses.

    That in Japan are usually thick with cigarette smoke, in my experience. No thanks.

  • -2

    Elbuda Mexicano

    I'm no Mormon but what is so great about any coffee?? I do not like over priced Starbucks Japan so I don't my time nor money there! I guess the only thing I really like is that they are no smoking???

  • 0

    Waxman

    I'm gonna go Tullys from now onwards, thats not fair with such high prices Starbucks is charging to clients already!! Why not make to paper cups bigger?? Is that an excuse??? Pathetic

  • -1

    TumbleDry

    It started with a customer service and ended with how Starbucks is great for being a non-smoking space. I tried hard to find how relevant that could be but I couldn't.

    I believe Starbucks does the cup filling in good faith. Well, if they can squeeze some profit, good for them. It's a business, not a charitable enterprise. I never go there anyways. Too expensive for what it is.

  • 1

    zichi

    @JeffLee

    in my hood there are plenty of no smoking real coffee houses.

  • 1

    billyshears

    Regarding the cost of Starbucks in Japan compared to the States, it should be noted that, possibly, higher expenses are involved. For example, rent, wages and supply of materials generally cost more in Japan . Also, you can get another cup on the same day for just 100 yen, even in another shop. However, I use my own Starbucks pot, so I would be disappointed if there were any reduction in the amount of coffee I receive. To those who complain that the cups are too full, there is already a container provided in every Starbucks to pour out as much as you want, so this reason for giving customers less coffee seems a little ingenuous .

  • -3

    caffeinebuzz

    Lol Starbucks? It failed miserably here in Australia because we saw it for the weak, low-grade rubbish it really is. Now there's only a handful left and most fellow countrymen avoid it like the plague. Good luck, Japan.

  • -1

    khettarama

    Coffee in GOOZ coffee chain is cheaper than Starbucks. Good thing in this coffee shop is you can choose size of a cup(12oz or 14 oz...) and pour how much coffee you want to.

  • -1

    philsandoz

    It looks like Starbucks is finding yet another way to make even more money as, perhaps in Japan they have to pay tax, unlike the way they dodge it in the UK.

  • 0

    ADK99

    I'm sure that Starbucks are genuinely (perhaps misguidedly) trying to respond to customer preferences here. It doesn't take a genius to see that the cost saving is insignificant - people seem to be assuming that they're only paying for the coffee when they go there but in fact you're paying for rent, salaries and a whole host of other things besides. There are plenty of things to criticize them for (tax avoidance and the effect they have had on independent coffee shops being among them) but this isn't it. As for 100 yen cups of coffee at McDonalds - they'd never be able to match that price if coffee was a key part of their turnover.

  • -2

    megosaa

    StarBUCKS is FiveBUCKS... NO THANK YOU!

  • 1

    cloa513

    Huge market in Japan as they actually respond to customer needs. Japanese companies don't understand how to respond to customer needs- case in point Vie de France- I like the food but there is no feedback forms at shops and nothing on the website so I can't tell them what I like and I don't.

  • 0

    kimuzukashiiiii

    What i dont understand about "sutaba" is ... They have decaf coffee, you can order it and they make it like normal drip coffee...

    however they refuse to make decaf drinks (other than filter coffee)

    I went into starbucks recently, and I couldnt drink caffine recently because of some new meds I was temporarily on. So I asked them to make a Christmas gingerbread latte, but with decaf coffee, I was willing to pay for any extra charges. They refused in the end, but could not give me a reason why ...

    I can drink coffee again now, but I dont want to go back there, just because they were kind of unhelpful. I mean ... is it really that hard to replace a shot of regular coffee with a shot of decaf? I only ever went for the Christmas drinks anyways ... but .... yea ... rant over

  • 1

    Speed

    I agree with Gaijininfo. In the States, I used to always just say, "Leave a little room for cream, please." Here I asked the same thing and they gave me only half a cup of coffee!

    After a few times of this, I stopped asking and just dump a few milliliters into their garbage if they don't have a sink nearby.

    (But generally I do like Starbucks and their staff.)

  • 0

    GW

    Star$$$ is mostly a waste of $$$, they only want your $$$ haha

    Stay away & your better off

  • -1

    CapnSinbad

    Yeah, yeah, whatever. I go to Staba sometimes, Tully's sometimes, the girls are friendly and efficient, taste of coffee is fine, you pay a bit more but you are in a kind of 'club' when you go there, for people willing to spend a bit more.So all the ketchi gaijin can stay away if you like but if you're that hard up you can't afford a decent cup of coffee now and then maybe it's time you got a better-paying job. People like to splurge on small luxuries, it makes them feel special. Live it up !

  • 1

    Tomasz Stasinski

    Ask for "oomeni" to get it full to the brim.

  • 0

    MeanRingo

    Now, if someone would fix it so that their pints didn't have a third of foam.

  • 0

    Kobuta Chan

    I'm not Coffee fan but I love Hot Chocolate. Is Starbucks paying any corporate tax in Japan? Now the Starbucks will make more money by short fills if the company does not reduce the price.

  • -4

    The_Pope

    I stopped drinking Starbucks when I found out the CEO was a Obama buddy...

  • 0

    Kittychosen

    Bigger cups? Hell's teeth, less water would do the trick - the coffee might be slightly more than pale brown water and have some taste - and no-one gets their pinkies burned!

  • 0

    parsboy

    Starbucks Japan is maybe saving money because Starbucks UK must be losing a lot of money . When it was discovered how little Starbucks pay in tax in the UK, a lot of people have been boycotting them going elsewhere . It would be of interest to the Japanese people, how much they pay in tax in Japan especially in these hard times ! I prefer Doutor myself !

  • 0

    ebisen

    they do have good coffee, and I saw spilled cups burning fingers more than once (yeah, I'm a caffeine junkie, and I ambrave enough to confess). that being said, Starbuck are such a worldwide power they can easily ask for bigger cups at the same price from their current suppliers.

    the problem is that they serve humans, and humans like to complain: there are people saying that 15 mm under the brim isa reasonable amount, and there are people saying they are ripped off, asking for a fuller cup, even with the bigger cup size.

  • 0

    kdt3272

    What is the problem???

    If you want them to fill it to the top, tell them "please fill it up!!"

    This isn't a Starbucks thing, this is a Japanese thing. When was the last time you got a full cup of coffee anywhere in Japan?

    Japanese people have to quit being so darn afraid to speak up...

  • 0

    Rolf Schlumpf

    I visit Starbucks once or twice a year... That's surely enough...

  • 3

    Serrano

    "customers were compalining about its cups being too full"

    Those are the idiot customers, just ignore them.

  • 1

    MicahDLM

    It's true they are quite full, I ask them for a small cup and then poor some in the extra cup and then add my honey and milk. In my opinion Starbucks coffee is good, although a bit strong. With a little inguiinity you can find a solution to every situation.

  • 3

    Saulo Akazawa

    Out of the thousands saying they were not getting enough they found two (to make the sentences plural) who complained about the cups being to full... And of course they had to take action... LOL

  • 1

    zichi

    I aways thought it was called Star Bucks because its so expensive?

  • -3

    upthesock

    The coffee in Starbucks isn't very good, its expensive and now you get less. Don't buy coffee from Starbucks, the coffee in MacDonald's is at least as good and much cheaper.

  • -2

    Serrano

    Starbucks coffee is somewhat better than McD's coffee, plus they give you brown sugar and real cream to put in it, but it's just not worth over 3 times the price.

  • -2

    upthesock

    OK, if Starbucks was the same price as MacDonald's I'd probably buy the Starbucks but that's it. The coffee in Starbucks is very average and you can make much better coffee at home with a cheap espresso machine and some mid priced beans. I don't buy from Starbucks because the coffee isn't good enough for the price they charge and their policy of tax avoidance.

  • -1

    Jaymann

    Soo funny the amount of people here who rate Starbucks as good coffee.... really makes you wonder if they have ever actually had 'good' coffee. It is ordinary swill.

  • 0

    Serrano

    Hey Jaymann - What's the 'good' coffee?

  • 0

    Chubaka

    Starbucks doesn’t offer the short size on its menu in the U.S. where the smallest serving is the tall size.

    Take it from a former Starbucks USA vendor, Short size is not on the menu board, but it is offered in most US stores if you ask. I miss the Hojicha tea that is offered in Japanese Starbucks. Nothing like that to be found in US or Euro Starbucks unfortunately.

  • 0

    Jaymann

    Come to Wellington and walk into any cafe to find out

  • 0

    deadbeatles

    Visit a high traffic Starbucks at the mall. First time there again in months. The barista remembers my poison. I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy. Starbucks is the only coffee shop I know outside my home. I'm a happy guy.

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