Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Anything changed at your local Starbucks?
Yes, there are new drinks. But there's always something new. Something that feels new, yet familiar, that is.
Have you noticed that Starbucks feels, in fact, pretty much the same as it has for a while?
That may be because the coffee chain has a difficult existential issue to maneuver.
In last week's earnings call, the company crowed that comparable store sales were up 3 percent.
Which is, of course, good for a huzzah.
However, more people aren't going to Starbucks. Indeed, the company is making these increased sales on raising prices and encouraging existing customers to buy more.
It's always a difficult dance when you're not finding new customers.
Apple, for example, realizes that phone sales are becoming saturated. Its solution is to offer more services -- a lot more services, ones that will keep refreshing the Apple brand just a little
It also hopes that pushing the Watch, the iPad and AirPods might keep the cash-register additionally vibrant. And you can still hope there might be another piece of hardware out there.
Starbucks, however, is in a fiercely competitive market where the slightest margin can severely affect sales.
It doesn't have the joy of launching a new, new thing.
It's drinks and eats, with a splash of convenience and a Frappuccino once in a while.
Like Apple, it seeks its new customers overseas rather than in the U.S.
Unlike Apple, it's perched in between being inexpensive and being exclusive, a precarious area.
It mines the middle ground by being ubiquitous and trying to ensure loyalty.
However, its recent decision to alter its loyalty program might offer a little jeopardy.
Some existing -- and very loyal -- customers are complaining they're now having to buy around $13 more breakfast (or lunch) in order to qualify for a free drink.
You really don't want to annoy your most loyal followers.
Yet, for its part, Starbucks believes the change will attract -- well, I never -- new customers, as the threshold for entry into at least a free something has been eased.
Currently, 40 percent of the coffee chain's business comes from its 16 million Rewards card holders.
Much, perhaps, depends on growth in China and Starbucks' ability to create meaningful mobile delivery.
Who wants lukewarm coffee, after all?
I can't help thinking, though, that Starbucks' competition will increase in intensity, rather than decrease.
When you've grown so much and become a fixture, it's hard to remain exciting.
I can't imagine a better time for a new, dynamic coffee competitor to enter the market to give Starbucks yet another problem to think about.