Coffee? I Don’t Think I Like Coffee

Chris Sheldrake

We have another buyer – we use that term ‘buyer’ in its loosest possible sense, Ed – that has, over the years, been spending a lot of the industry’s money looking at digital signage and it would seem that they are up to yet more nonsense.

My Balls In A Juice Maker

Towards the end of July the Retail IT Procurement | Supply Chain Operations folks at Harbucks Coffee Company officially invited several dozen vendors to a ‘Supplier Showcase’.

This was originally scheduled for Tuesday August 31st, 2010.

“We would like to host your firm so our partners can talk directly with you and see first hand your products & services related to Drive-Thru store operations” said the invite.

Harbucks was gathering its internal thought-leadership team for an in-house trade show (the aforementioned ‘Supplier Showcase’) to, and we quote “review the latest opportunities in the market place that would support our store of the future planning”.

We loved the line in the invite “… we must remain true to our Harbucks Mission and we need suppliers <sic> input that are void of empty promises” – that phrase ’empty promises’ works both ways and will have struck a chord with many suppliers who have been working at the account, with nothing to show for it, for years.

In this particular Supplier Showcase the emphasis is / was on Drive Thru and some of the specifics that Harbucks were looking for included: –

  • Does RFID have a role in our DT stores?
  • Can self-payment posts be a fit?
  • How do we accommodate 5 tender types?
  • How does digital signage play a role?
  • What tools are available to speed transactions, improve the customer experience?
  • Does mobile POS accommodate any of this?
  • How can we bring the café experience to the DT lane?
  • What will push the envelope that continues to differentiate Starbucks DT stores from any other QSR thru commercially available off-the-shelf solutions?
  • What key contacts for suppliers do you have that we may want to consider?

To be fair the Retail Procurement team are not without a sense of humour, we quote “As you read this it’s not 100% green field but we are thirsty for what is possible yet embodies how innovative Harbucks continues to be” – oh how we ROFL’ed with that one!

Roll on a few weeks and vendors received another email missive “Harbucks has decided to change the structure and content of the Supplier Showcase and we are scaling back our efforts for the time being”

Then, in an incredibly similar manner to the broadcast-joke that was sending the Dunkin’ Donuts RFP to 18+ Vendors the Harbucks email continued “After reaching out to you about the planned Supplier Showcase we have learned a great deal in the last week and realized we’re biting off more than we can chew and literally more than we can physically host”

At the same time as saying “We will not need to see all of you in Seattle on August 31st … in order to make the best use of your time and ours we will be reducing who we invite to Seattle” they had the gall to add “For suppliers who are not coming in this first meeting please feel free to send me any written product or service information you have”.

One (potential) supplier who did not want to be named for obvious reasons told us “They have been bouncing this around for ages and completely wasting suppliers’ time and money and as far as we can see with no senior management direction whatsoever”.

However, never fear Harbucks will “continue to explore what role digital signage might play in our drive-thru store of the future” and we can all look forward to the ‘mini-RFI of sorts’ that they tell us they will soon be issuing!

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