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Starbucks tops off training with quality pledge

SEATTLE Starbucks has followed up Tuesday night’s systemwide refresher course on coffee-making with the posting of customer guarantees in every store.

“Our Promise” appears like a hand-written notice on a chalkboard behind the service counter. “Your drink should be perfect every time," the sign reads. "If not, let us know and we’ll make it right.” Beneath the statement are the signatures of the unit’s baristas.

Starbucks has not disclosed how much was lost in sales during the systemwide shutdown of more than 7,000 domestic units between 5:30 and 9 p.m. local time. The stated purpose was to sharpen each unit’s baristas. In a session apparently attended by a New York Times reporter, for instance, the focus was the ideal way of steaming milk.

An Associated Press report indicated that 135,000 baristas underwent the retraining.

(NRN Video: A Starbucks unit in New York City shuts down in preparation for the training session on Tuesday night.)

The training refresher is part of a larger initiative of chairman and chief executive Howard Schultz to intensify what he calls the Starbucks Experience, or the perceived uniqueness of frequenting one of the chain’s cafes. Toward that end, Schultz has also announced that the brand is dropping its breakfast sandwiches because their smell muted the aroma of the coffee.

Brand parent Starbucks Corp. also disclosed that it is eliminating 600 jobs and reorganizing headquarters operations to eliminate what Schultz has termed bureaucracy.

Several other coffee sellers tried to capitalize on last night’s closings by offering free or discounted coffees. Dunkin’ Donuts, for instance, cut the cost of its espresso-based drinks to 99 cents between 1 p.m. and 10 p.m.

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