As it turns out, Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) has decided not to phase out its breakfast sandwiches after all. I, for one, am relieved. I think those sandwiches are tasty, and some mornings, nothing else will do. As a shareholder, though, I find it the company's latest interesting reversal, as returned CEO Howard Schultz continues tinkering with the business.
Earlier this year, Schultz accused the breakfast sandwiches of stinking up the joint. He's zealously trying to bring Starbucks back to its roots, and when it came to the sandwiches, he didn't want any smell other than coffee registering with customers' olfactory systems. (Apparently, the company has changed the recipe so the sandwiches are less, er, aromatic.)
When I heard of Schultz's plan to ditch the sandwiches, I was a bit miffed. After all, how did dollar drinks hearken back to Schultz's concept of the old "romance" at the core of Starbucks' brand? I thought the warm breakfast sandwiches were a heck of a lot better than many of Starbucks' less aromatic breakfast pastries. If the company wants customers to get more romantic about those, it'll take a lot more work.
In addition, many competitors have similar offerings, and now more than ever, who wants to make two stops in the morning? McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) has always had breakfast offerings to go with its coffee, including the Egg McMuffin, and Panera's (Nasdaq: PNRA ) got breakfast sandwiches, too.
I have a lot of faith in Howard Schultz, and I'm glad he's back at the helm. However, I've said before that I hope he won't sacrifice progress for nostalgia. It's easy and logical to demand that the company return to its roots, but it may be a lot harder to figure out which strategies were truly good for the company.
I have more faith in Schultz than I would in less passionate company heads, although I have fielded more than a few emails from some readers less confident in his abilities. But Schultz's apparent indecision regarding the lowly breakfast sandwich makes me hope business decisions are being made with more prudence than romance. Passion is good -- and apparently, a lot of people share passion for Starbucks -- but let's hope some good ideas won't get sacrificed for the sake of the "good old days."