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Originally published February 23, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 23, 2007 at 6:01 PM

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Schultz laments that Starbucks experience has been watered down

Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz sent a memo last week to top executives saying that the Starbucks experience has been watered down.

Seattle Times business reporter

Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz sent a memo last week to top executives saying that the Starbucks experience has been watered down.

He laments that some decisions have resulted in "stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores vs. the warm feeling of a neighborhood store."

"Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee. In fact, I am not sure people today even know we are roasting coffee," he wrote in memo dated Feb. 14, a week after sending a message to all employees encouraging them not to be disheartened by negative media and online reports.

"I take full responsibility myself, but we desperately need to look into the mirror and realize it's time to get back to the core and make the changes necessary to evoke the heritage, the tradition, and the passion that we all have for the true Starbucks experience," Schultz said.

He is worried about competitors, too, saying that some decisions -- like switching to automatic espresso machines and using flavor-locked coffee packaging -- have left openings for other coffee shops to appeal to former Starbucks customers. That situation "must be eradicated," he said.

Schultz does not offer solutions to the predicament he describes, but said he wants the company to be "smarter about how we are spending our time, money and resources. Let's get back to the core. Push for innovation and do the things necessary to once again differentiate Starbucks from all others."

He ends on a sweeter note, acknowledging "all that you do for Starbucks."

Spokeswoman Valerie O'Neil confirmed that the memo, which first appeared Thursday on the StarbucksGossip.com web site, is real.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com

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