The word's filtering out about Starbucks' (Nasdaq: SBUX) newest initiatives, revealed at the company's annual meeting.

Yes, times are tough now. But, remember last year's annual meeting, when Starbucks leader Howard Schultz discussed the now-infamous "losing soul" memo? Today, he's working on ways to get the coffeehouse back to its previous shine.

At this year's meeting, Schultz has also acknowledged the economy is in a tailspin, which is helping fan many investors' bearishness on the stock.

Same story, different store?
As much as I'm a big fan (and shareholder) of Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Starbucks, and was pleased to see Schultz return to the helm, the new initiatives announced at the annual meeting were a bit underwhelming.

For example, the company is touting an Internet initiative that at least one news agency reported as entering the "social networking" realm. (Gag -- not the allusion to Facebook and News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS) MySpace!) But the site will allow customers to submit and vote on ideas to improve the Starbucks experience, so it may be useful for the company.

In another tidbit, Starbucks plans to juice up its customer satisfaction with pre-paid cards. The loyalty endeavor -- well known to people who get better deals through such cards from places like Safeway (NYSE: SWY) and CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS) pharmacies -- will offer perks to customers who register the cards online, such as free refills for drip coffee drinks and extras such as flavored syrup or soy milk. Still, it's not revolutionary when you do something many retailers do.  

Bean counting
What might not be exciting but might qualify as sensible, is news percolating from the meeting about a new emphasis on espresso and freshly ground beans. The company will introduce a "state-of-the-art" espresso system that it claims will yield "the perfect shot every time." Expect baristas to start scooping and grinding coffee in-store.

Starbucks also announced the acquisition of a proprietary in-store brewing system called Clover, which it claims will deliver "the best cup of brewed coffee available anywhere."

The coffee giant has entered a deal for The Coffee Equipment Co., giving Starbucks the means to provide the Clover system. (Terms of the acquisition weren't disclosed.) And don't you know it -- Schultz is quoted in a press release that the new system will add to the "drama and theater." That's darn close to the "romance and theater" Schultz said was missing from the coffee-making experience last year.

At any rate, let's hope this will be as helpful to Starbucks as the acquisition of Keurig was to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR), although the Keurig deal allowed Green Mountain to make its way into consumers' kitchens for single-cup coffee enjoyment.

I know I teased about last quarter's word that Howard Schultz didn't appreciate the smell of breakfast sandwiches distracting from coffee. But the idea that the company should get back to its coffee roots is significant. After all, in Starbucks' long history, it's always been about the coffee, although I admit the sandwiches were a nice addition to my morning brew.

Starbucks does have competitive advantage against lower-end rivals. It is smart for the coffee giant to shore up its high-end coffee reputation so that companies such as McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) have a harder time stealing its thunder.

It won't be decaf forever
Even if I'm not totally fired up by the message of the annual meeting, I can appreciate the return to its roots (or, more specifically, grounds). Starbucks is a great value stock right now for patient investors with long-term timeframes. (Of course, not everybody agrees.)

The near term may be rough, but this is a great company with plenty of growth ahead of it overseas. I mean, is it really reasonable to think the tough times for Starbucks will never pass? I just don't find it plausible that Starbucks' brand is that tarnished or that it was just a fad that lasted for years.

The smartest investors relish the times when solid companies have temporary setbacks that frighten other investors away. Starbucks shares, down 46% in a year and sporting a PEG ratio of just 0.98, look like a seriously reasonable investment idea right now.

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Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks. The Fool's disclosure policy is good to the last drop.