Some big, rosy-hued changes happened overnight at Seattle-area Starbucks stores. Today Seattle becomes the second city, after San Francisco, to witness the Mermaid's new array of croissants (chocolate, summer berry, ham and cheese), cookies, a molten chocolate cake, muffins with a sidecar of vanilla frosting, and a host of other patisserie-style offerings. You'll find them arrayed in a pink-lined case, served in pink bags by partners wearing pink aprons.
The menu overhaul is the result of last year’s acquisition of La Boulange, a San Francisco chainlet of lovely Parisian-style pastry shops, owned by honest-to-god Frenchman Pascal Rigo. Now Rigo's the guy charged with making over the Mermaid's food offerings, which even Starbucks addicts admit can be a little lackluster.
These new pastries are all warmed to order and served and in a bright-pink bag reminiscent of Paris's pastry shops. And, I must say, the croissants and other items are a major improvement over their pastry-case predecessors, and decently priced, too. It's the first phase of a long-term overhaul planned for Starbucks foodstuffs. At a small media gathering last month, Rigo promised to blow our collective minds with lunchtime offerings like customized sandwich offerings, improved bagels, soups, and more.
This morning's rollout represents a major shift in how Starbucks sources and scales its food items. Rather than produce uniform (and uniformly mediocre) pastries in a central location, the company is training facilities around the country. Operating on this smaller scale, says Rigo, means using better, more regional ingredients and more sustainable farms. A caramelized apple cake sold on the West Coast might be made with Washington apples, while the same version is made with Michigan applies to the east. Some items might be regional, like a pastrami sandwich in New York or tres leches cake in Miami (perhaps a salmon brioche in Seattle?).
This first round of (mostly breakfast) pastries will be in 2,500 of Starbucks' 8,000 stores by the end of the year. Regardless of whether you frequent Starbucks, the business and supply chain aspect of this story is pretty interesting. Here is the rundown from the Seattle Times and a great piece by Corby Kummer at Smithsonian.com.