Starbucks Loses Millions of Customers, and Price Isn’t the Problem

By: Georgia McKoy | Published: May 05, 2024

It’s getting tough for coffee lovers at Starbucks, where wait times can stretch to a whopping 20 minutes. The CEO admits that these delays are turning customers away. 

Adding insult to injury, boycotts and bad weather are also turning the daily coffee run into a rarity for some regulars.

Starbucks Sees Dip in Patronage in 2023

The year kicked off on a sour note for Starbucks.

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Close-up of a Starbucks cold brew coffee in a clear plastic cup, topped with a creamy layer, featuring the Starbucks logo on the cup

Source: Wikimedia Commons

A noticeable number of customers drifted to competitors or just brewed their morning cup at home. 

A Sudden Drop in Sales

For the first time in nearly three years—since the pandemic’s peak—Starbucks has seen its sales plummet.

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Close-up of a green Starbucks logo mounted on a rough concrete wall, depicting the iconic mermaid symbol

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Just months after reporting record earnings, the slowdown has come as a jolt, with the CEO pointing to those ever-growing lines as a key culprit.

Custom Orders Create Chaos

Starbucks’ signature custom drinks are a hit, but there’s a catch: they take time.

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A Starbucks Frappuccino in a clear plastic cup with a domed lid, placed on a café table, featuring drizzles of caramel and chocolate, with a Starbucks logo on the cup

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Baristas crafting everything from Frappuccinos to pumpkin spice lattes means each order eats into service speed, frustrating customers and impacting the chain’s efficiency.

Forecast: Slow Sales Ahead

With around 17,000 locations across North America, Starbucks is bracing for a continued slump through the warmer months.

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Exterior view of a Starbucks coffee shop with a black facade and large glass windows, showing customers inside and the green Starbucks logo prominently displayed

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The coffee chain has signaled to investors that the slow pace might not pick up anytime soon.

Controversies Brewing

Starbucks has found itself steeped in controversy, with boycotts making a dent in sales, especially on college campuses.

Night scene showing a protest outside a Starbucks with a green chair and a sign reading "Boycott Starbucks" alongside other protest materials, on a city sidewalk

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These actions stem from the company’s perceived stance on global military actions.

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Mobile Order Mishaps Mount

In an eye-opening chat, CEO Laxman Narasimhan said, “We have customers coming to our stores today, or on mobile order pay, who don’t fulfill their transaction because of wait times.”

Inside a Busy Starbucks Store

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It’s clear Starbucks is struggling to retain customers due to lengthy wait times.

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App Frustrations

A significant slice of Starbucks’ clientele who place orders via the mobile app never pick them up when stores are swamped.

Close-up of three white Starbucks cups lined up, each featuring the iconic green Starbucks mermaid logo, set against a dark, blurred background

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This high abandonment rate illustrates the challenges Starbucks faces in streamlining its service.

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Social Media Criticism

Online platforms are abuzz with customer complaints about the wait times at Starbucks. 

Image of a Starbucks logo illuminated on the side of a building with a modern architectural style, framed by silhouetted leaves against a dusk sky showing hues of pink and blue

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The cries for an express line for simple, quick orders like a black coffee are growing louder, highlighted by viral complaints on platforms like TikTok.

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Stocks Decline

Following the announcement of disappointing quarterly results, Starbucks saw its stock value dip to a two-year low. 

A Starbucks iced coffee placed on a metal table outdoors next to a book with a blue cover

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During an interview, the CEO stood his ground as host Jim Cramer delivered harsh critiques.

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More Than Just Coffee Problems

It’s not just the long lines. Weather woes in the U.S. and faltering demand in China, Starbucks’ second-biggest market, have also brewed trouble. 

Close-up view of an illuminated round Starbucks sign hanging outside a café, set against a dark background with soft focus on nearby trees

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The CEO cited these issues as part of the reason for the disappointing performance.

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Rivals on the Rise

As Starbucks grapples with these issues, competitors are not just catching up—they’re pulling ahead.

A close-up of a Starbucks coffee in a white ceramic mug topped with whipped cream, set on a coaster with small white tiles, with a blurred background enhancing the focus on the mug

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Tim Horton’s, McDonald’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts have not only retained their customers but are also chipping away at Starbucks’ market share, confidently claiming a bigger piece of the pie.

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