France Café Charges Rude Customers Quadruple, As Starbucks Rolls Out La Boulange Food Line
There's a little café called La Petite Syrah in Nice, France that threatens to charge customers quadruple if they don't live up to the city's pleasant name when ordering their coffee. The café's owner charges increased prices for a cup of coffee to correlate with descending levels of politeness, in an effort to remind customers to use their manners. In short: Scrooges will pay more.
Well, OK: The menu is (mostly) a joke. The owner, Fabrice Papino, has never actually enforced his price scheme, which would charge customers a very reasonable €1.40 for "Hello, a coffee, please..." but a teeth-clenching €4.25 for "A coffee, please" — and a likely violently handed-over €7 for "A coffee."
Papino has a regular clientele, but says that customers can be brusque when they're busy. Since he's put the new menu up, though, Papino's noted a change in attitude for the better.
“Most of my customers are regulars and they just see the funny side and exaggerate their politeness,” he said. “They started calling me 'your greatness' when they saw the sign. But people are more relaxed now, and they’re smiling more. That's the most important thing."
It might not seem like a huge deal over here: Walk into a packed coffee shop in any major American city, and you're forced to cut formalities and reduce your order to keywords. But in France, the culture revolves around the little formalities that make a day a little more bearable — the double-kiss, for instance. And you better bonjour when you walk into a boulangerie, par exemple, or you might be sold the stale loaf.
Speaking of boulangeries: Starbucks has launched a new food line with products from La Boulange, the beloved San-Francisco-based café and patisserie that Starbucks bought out last June for $100 million. This is the coffee company's largest-ever investment in food, and it's part of the company's effort to make caffeine-consuming customers think of Starbucks as a place to go for food, rather than just to get food with their drink.
The new line is basically an upgrade of food that already exists in Starbucks — the standard pastries, sandwiches, and salads — but with a better name and presentation, as well as pedigree of La Boulange in their baked goods. The La Boulange food been tested in Starbucks' West Coast and Chicago chains, but the line recently launched in more than 500 stores in New York. Next up is the South, and then the rest of America by July 2014.
However, some employees say that the transition has been super-stressful. The products need to be served hot by company policy, and in order to accommodate the more diverse range of duties, the company's put the employees on sort of an assembly line: One employee does the same job over and over and over. Which kind of stinks, because if you're constantly warming up croissants all day, there's not much chance to interact with customers.
It's also created communications breakdowns worse than what's normally seen in Midtown Starbucks.
"Starbucks is losing every ounce of what makes it human," an anonymous NYC barista told Business Insider. "Instead of simply being a coffee shop, it's trying to be everything for everyone."
Maybe employee breaks should be spent zenning out at Starbucks' other recent buy, Teavana...