The End Is near: Starbucks Is Struggling!

by Doug Bursch

Starbucks is struggling financially and this has me a bit unnerved. I’m not an end times expert, but a Starbucks downturn might be one of the signs of the Apocalypse. I think Revelations states before the four horsemen arrive, we are greeted by a large angry mermaid. Come to think of it, that might be from Jason and the Argonauts.

Regardless, Starbucks has been unable to escape the economic woes of a shaky economy. They are laying off employees, closing stores, and making all of us feel a bit more jittery.

In light of the current crisis, I thought I might give Starbucks a few suggestions on how to right their ship.

In my humble opinion, Starbucks must do more to cater to their Christian clientele. This is primarily because Christians make up somewhere between 50 to 70 percent of their customer base.

Starbucks is really a bar alternative for Christians. It’s the watering hole for the sanctified. If you walk into any Starbucks lobby, you’ll find a room full of pastors, church leaders, and caffeinated congregants.

In one corner there are usually two or three women counseling each other on why it was wise for them to leave their last church. “Honest Gloria, no one should put up with that kind of Sunday School curriculum. And did you hear what Cindy did, well I’m not trying to be mean but. . .”

A few tables down from the Christian counseling session, there’s usually one slacker college pastor or emergent church visionary checking his Facebook, updating his blog, and writing the next great “what’s wrong with the church” treatise.

And then there’s the corner table, church staff planning meeting. Where hours are spent deciding which online trinkets to order for the Easter Egg Outreach. “I don’t think we should order any slingshot sticky frogs this year, there are still some stuck on the sanctuary ceiling.”

Most importantly, there’s usually that annoying eavesdropper, pretending to work as he frantically listens for content to use in his radio show, newspaper column, and Sunday morning sermon. Actually, that guy isn’t at every Starbucks, but he certainly makes the rounds.

Starbucks is packed full of Christians. If you don’t believe me, the next time you see a Starbucks, run in and shout, “Is there a Christian in the house? I need someone to witness to me in a relevant, non-threatening, but persuasive manner!” You’ll be swamped.

You’d think with all the Christians bellied up to the coffee bar, Starbucks would target a little marketing dollars in our direction. Instead, they give us their own, carefully marketed religion.

Starbucks doesn’t really sell coffee, rather they sell a sense of well being. They don’t just serve lattes, they serve up community. There’s home, there’s work, and then there’s Starbucks. It has always been their intention to be that third place. Consequently, Starbucks has become the church of the caffeinated with their own latte liturgy.

If you need proof of what they’re selling, just read the signs. They describe their coffees as “familiar and friendly, extraordinary and enticing, adventurous and assertive, interesting and complex, sturdy and powerful, costly and expensive. Alright, I made up that last adjectival pair, but the rest is true.

Yet when the economy sours, we begin to realize that Starbucks is first and foremost just a business. It exists to make money; not to promote a grand ideal or to even change the world. If the profits wane, the stores shut down, and so does the visionary relevance.

During these uncertain economic times, much can be shaken. So we have questions. What will last? What is certain? What is eternal? Some believe everything fades away. They believe we work, spend, consume, and die.

I choose to believe differently. When the temporal world is shaken, I believe a better kingdom rises up. A kingdom that cannot be shaken with a hope that cannot disappoint. I believe in eternal purpose and permanence.

In my corner of the woods, times have been tough. Friends have lost their jobs. Others are struggling to hold onto their homes. They are trying hard to make good decisions in uncertain times. The plight of Starbucks reminds me of a truth that motivates my life. I will not live for temporary things. I choose a better kingdom.

Until then, I might have to travel a few more miles to get my venti drip.

Doug Bursch pastors Evergreen Foursquare Church, writes a weekly column, and hosts The Fairly Spiritual Show radio program. Every week his insights are avoided by millions. He lives and works in the Seattle area which means he has yet to come to grips with his caffeine addiction. You can peruse his Fairly Spiritual Show podcast along and other media endeavors at His writing will also be featured in the next edition of Feline Wellness Magazine (seriously).

Guest Voice
Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • Silhouette

    What has ended is an economy based on excess and fluff. Grind your own at home. Or better yet, quit drinking liquid meth altogether and your new, slower pace of life won’t frustrate you so much. ; )

    • fairlyspiritual

      Ouch, I knew this would turn into an intervention. Come one. . . this is a social accepted addiction. . . paying over two bucks for a cup of coffee.

  • Holly_in_Cincinnati

    Starbucks (and other coffeehouses) are frequented by bloggers, recovering alcoholics, trendy young people….of all religions.

  • swag

    Yet another person duped into believing that Starbucks’ financial problems are purely external — that they are innocent victims of macroeconomic forces. Please. Starbucks’ stock has been sputtering for years. Its quarterly financials have been sick and wrong since over a year ago, when they blamed it on the then financial demons of “high gas prices and high food prices cutting into consumer spending”.

    We’re talking many, many months before the credit crisis and subsequent layoffs. Not to mention CEO Howard Schlutz’s famous memo lamenting the demise of his company came out Valentine’s Day *2007*.

    But I guess it’s a lot more convenient to blame all of Starbucks internal failures and mismanagement on “it’s the economy stupid”. But explain that while competitors such as Peet’s Coffee & Tea are selling $4 lattes and still making double-digit profits every quarter ( Just a couple of weeks ago, there was even an AP piece about how many local cafes are posting double-digit growth these days (

    The economy isn’t helping matters. But Starbucks was a sick animal before things went south.

    • fairlyspiritual

      I don’t think their financial problems are “purely external” and I certainly don’t think “they are innocent victims”. . . I was just joking about their coffee culture. Just pointing out that a business is just a business. Just a philosophical point. Not a commentary on Starbucks management.