Corporate coffee brewer Starbucks has destroyed a San Francisco icon in a $100 million “experiment”.
The Seattle based coffee chain announced Wednesday it was closing the La Boulange bakery, a business it bought from the passionate founder, Frenchman Pascal Rigo, in June 2012. It paid $100 million for the business, which had built a loyal following in its home city with a half dozen or so stores.
The deal included a contract for Rigo to join Starbucks and drive menu development.
“This is an investment in our core business. After more than 40 years, we will be able to say that we are bakers too,” said Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman, president and CEO said.
That was 2012. Yesterday the company announced Rigo was no longer part of the Starbucks organisation.
“Based on our ongoing evaluations, Starbucks has determined La Boulange stores are not sustainable for the company’s long-term growth,” the company said in a statement.
But the company will keep the brand to prevent its return to a popular neighbourhood bakery.
Netizens reacted with shock and anger: “This proves that quality is dead and Lowest Common Denominator rules in the United States. An absolute farce,” wrote Daniel Fischer on Twitter. Another fan, Karl Wong, tweeted: “Thanks for nothing @Starbucks! Thanks for ruining our local chain.”
When it bought the business, Starbucks said the deal reflected customer demand for “more wholesome and delicious food options”. It incorporated La Boulange food into its breakfast and lunch menus. In the last quarter, Starbucks’ breakfast menu sales grew by 35 per cent year on year. Lunch sales grew by double digits. But neither La Boulange or Rigo received any credit.
Back in 2012, Starbucks said: “This acquisition and Pascal’s visionary leadership will bring the artistry of the French bakery to the marketplace in a similar way that Starbucks brought the romance of the Italian espresso bar to many North American coffee consumers for the first time.”
This week, the giant US multinational corporation said: “Starbucks has successfully delivered an up-levelled food experience with the roll-out of La Boulange products in its US and Canada stores, which have been well received by customers.”
Translation: It squeezed every last drop of innovation and creativity out of Rigo and the brand and now – surplus to requirements, they’re both on the scrapheap.
There are now 23 La Boulange stores in the network. All will close by September.
Starbucks says Rigo will “continue his passion for food in San Francisco while dedicating more time and resources toward his nonprofit ventures in an effort to supply quality food to schools with underprivileged children and bring innovative after-school clinics to help children with learning disabilities”.
How charitable of Starbucks.