Every year, Starbucks, America’s most popular coffee purveyor, dishes out new drinks, expands into new countries, and tests out new concepts. This past year was no different. Here’s a brief look back over Starbucks’ most notable headlines in 2016.
1. Starbucks Customers Are Pissed About the New Rewards Program
Early in the year Starbucks announced it would be revamping its very popular and very successful rewards program. Under the original plan, regulars were gifted a cup of coffee after spending around $25 on multiple visits. But under the new system, no one gets a free drink without spending a minimum of $62.50. Fans took to social media to voice their discontent, but the company pressed forward and by the latter half of the year Starbucks was reaping the profits.
2. Starbucks' Latte Empire Is Expanding to Italy
If you don’t know now you know: There isn’t a single Starbucks location in all of Italy. But the company plans to change that next year. Skeptics abound, but Starbucks is trying a respectful approach in opening a location in Milan in 2017. Schultz said in a statement earlier this year, "Starbucks history is directly linked to the way the Italians created and executed the perfect shot of espresso. Now we're going to try, with great humility and respect, to share what we've been doing and what we've learned through our first retail presence in Italy."
3. Starbucks Opening in France Draws Cronut-Like Lines
The green mermaid’s arrival in the city of Strasbourg, France was met with such excitement that it caused lines that would rival the debut of the latest Cronut flavor. People around the world raised their eyebrows at the news, but it helps to know that though France is known around the world for its cafés, in general its coffee has a poor reputation. Locals in Strasbourg descended upon the new shop in droves to taste Frappuccinos topped with swirls of whipped cream while American’s shook their heads.
4. Starbucks Sued for Underfilling Its Lattes
After a lawsuit claiming Starbucks lattes were underfilled was filed in Northern California, the Today Show decided to test things out for themselves. Reporters went to half a dozen Starbucks stores and purchased 16-ounce grande lattes. When measured in lab beakers, after the foam “settled,” reporters found that none of them measured up to the listed amount. Starbucks tried and failed to have the suit dismissed. A copycat lawsuit alleged Starbucks was also underfilling its iced drinks. That suit was dismissed.
5. Starbucks Introduces Nitro Coffee
This year small coffeehouse favorite nitro coffee made its debut on Starbucks’s menu. By summertime, the cold brew infused nitrogen drink was available at more than 500 different locations across the U.S. Clearly, Starbucks is playing catch up here in trying to appeal to customers of small, craft coffee shops that have popped up in large cities across the country.
6. Starbucks Opens First Location in Ferguson, Missouri
Making good on its promise to open in lower-income neighborhoods, Starbucks debuted its first store in Ferguson, Missouri in April. The coffee giant says it "plans to open similar stores in at least 15 low- to medium-income communities across the U.S. by 2018." Data shows that 83 percent of Starbucks' U.S. stores serve areas where the population is mostly white, and are typically found in wealthy or middle class neighborhoods.
7. Starbucks Is Raising Prices by as Much as 30 Cents on Certain Drinks
Starbucks surprised everyone by quietly raising prices over Fourth of July weekend. Some drinks got as much as a 30 cent bump. But Starbucks also raised employee wages over the summer. Responding to increasing pressure from employees at company-owned stores, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced a minimum 5 percent pay raise for all employees and managers plus increased stock benefits. Shortly after this announcement, the ‘Bucks also said it would be loosening its dress code to allow for more self-expression.
8. Petition Urges Starbucks to Vacate Trump Properties
Over the summer and fall Trump supporters faced off against Starbucks and Starbucks fans. First, Starbucks fans petitioned the company to end its lease inside Trump Tower. Just before the Republican National Convention, fans upped the ante: More than a thousand people pledged to purchase nearly $70,000 in Starbucks gift cards if the coffee giant agreed to terminate its lease at Trump Tower in Manhattan. After Donald Trump was elected President of the United States in early November, Trump fans struck back: Patrons ordered their coffees with the name “Trump,” thereby forcing the barista to yell out the PEOTUS’s last name when the coffee order was up. Somehow these supporters missed the fact that by even walking into Starbucks they were supporting a company that opposed their candidate. Here’s Schultz’s take on the election results: “Many Americans have allowed the vitriolic nature of the presidential campaign to ignite our differences and strip away our civility and dignity.”
9. This Year's Starbucks Red Cups Are Festive AF
At the beginning of November Starbucks released a green holiday-themed cup, and... let’s just say it wasn’t well received. People took to Twitter to accuse the brand of everything from "political brainwashing" to suggesting the cups are an attack on Christian values. But luckily for all those angry Tweeters, Starbucks introduced red cups with more festive imagery later in the season. Crisis averted.
10. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Is Stepping Down
The biggest surprise of the year? When Starbucks’s face and visionary Howard Schultz announced he would be stepping down as CEO. Of course Schultz isn’t going away for good: He’ll take the position of executive chairman. Starbucks chief operating officer Kevin Johnson is to replace Schultz as CEO. Going forward, Schultz will focus on the company’s Reserve brand. In a statement, he said the move “ideally positions Starbucks to continue profitably growing our core business around the world into the future.”