Starbucks Brews Up Changes

World's largest coffee chain brews up changes, hoping to draw more customers.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 7:18 AM

April 7, 2008 — -- Starbucks showed coffee drinkers the difference between a cappuccino and a latte and then taught them how to order one by saying "grande" instead of medium.

Consumers drank it up and in return made Starbucks the world's largest coffee chain.

When Starbucks went public in 1992, it had 125 stores. Today there are more than 15,000 stores in 44 countries, and billions in sales. But now after years of spectacular growth, the nation's leading premium coffee roaster has found its coffee going cold.

"We have challenges that we haven't had in quite some time in our company," said Howard Schultz, Starbucks' once-again leader.

In 2000 Schultz stepped down as CEO after 13 years to focus on larger projects and become the company's chairman. But in January the company fired then-CEO Jim Donald and Schultz returned.

To meet the battle brewing over coffee, Schultz quickly announced a series of initiatives to refocus Starbucks on how it all started: It's the coffee, "one cup of coffee at [a] time."

On Tuesday, consumers will get their first taste of the "new" Starbucks as the company launches a blend of coffee called Pike Place Roast, with free cups of coffee served nationwide from noon to 12:30 p.m. ET.

From then on, the coffee will be served every day in every store, brewed fresh every 30 minutes.

"The goal is to reinvent brewed coffee in America," Schultz told ABC News "Nightline" anchor Terry Moran during an exclusive interview in the company's first store in Seattle.

Despite continued growth and strong sales overall, the last year has been a tough one for the nation's largest coffee chain.

The company has been battered by a combination of higher dairy prices, consumers spending less in a slowing economy, tougher competition from McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts, along with missteps Starbucks made as it became increasingly bureaucratic and corporate and less a neighborhood coffee shop.