Coffee: Corporate vs. The Little Guy

Victorians do love them some coffee.  It’s hard to walk a block without running into either a corporate store or a local café. And as much as you’d think it would all be the same, it really isn’t.  The products all taste different, the environment/ambience is varied but the big question: Who’s customer service is better? Well I don’t have time to hit every coffee stop in Victoria but I can do two, based on two visits to each.  My local Starbucks vs. Cook Street’s Bubby Rose Bakery.

First up, Starbucks. I write my blog quite regularly at my local ‘Bucks (hell, I’m doing it right now), going in to get my Soy Chai Latte with easy foam (Yes, I’m still a man) and a pastry. Usually there’s a few people in front of me but it doesn’t take long before I’m sitting at one of the tables, banging away on my laptop. The staff are a green-apron blur, hurriedly working on something: cashier, coffee person, cleaner upper, etc.

And then there’s Bubby Rose Bakery.  A local institution that offers more in the way of a full bakery as well as coffee.  A more laid back approach with the staff dressed in their everyday clothes and not much in the way of quick movements. I’ve only been there later in the day so the food is a little more on the sparse side but that is more an example of their popularity, less of their lack of products.

At Starbucks, I’m always treated with a smile and, having come here a few times, they recognize me with a sense of familiarity. I rarely wait long while in line before I’m greeted quickly and efficiently. Smile, eye contact, rung in, pastry in hand, paid for, off to get my coffee.  All taking about one minute…if that. And I never feel rushed if that’s easy to believe. If I had one thing to nitpick, it would be the table maintenance is lacking. When I’ve been writing for an hour or so, my crumpled pastry wrapping is still sitting there as is my empty coffee cup.  Coming out from behind the counter a little more often would really put them over the top in customer service.

Bubby Rose customer service?  What customer service? Both times I’ve recently been there, the cashier didn’t smile…hell, she didn’t even look at me (different girl each time). The high-point? “Do you want that heated up?” That was it. The staff was more interested in what was going on outside/on the ceiling/on the eyelid than they were for the customer in front of them. I’d like to say something good but I wasn’t there long so the impression was brief but lasting.

The Conclusion:

Starbucks: Going steady – This could be the beginning of something major. You’re always happy and friendly when I’m around. Sure there’s others but you make me feel just as special. You’ll even go that extra mile to keep this relationship going (a misorder was quickly replaced). You and me…we’re in a good place.

Bubby Rose Bakery: Friend Zone – I just don’t like you in “that way.”  What customer service? I wanted to like you. All my friends said we’d be good together but sadly this was a blind date that went wrong. You were aloof and reserved. I didn’t feel any sort of connection at all.  Do you even like me?

It’s pretty straight forward that for a small business to compete with big business, they need to stand out.  One of the best way’s they can do that is through exceptional customer service so I find it stunning that Bubba Rose drops the ball when it comes to this opportunity. Maybe I’m missing something because the place is always busy. Is it convenience? Is there something in the food? Sorry, until I hear different I’m staying a corporate shill.

Service Rating System:

Friend Zone – I just don’t like you in “that way.”
Booty Call – If I don’t have anything else better going on, I’ll stop by.
2nd Date – I’ll give you a second chance.
Going steady – This could be the beginning of something major.


In a clothing store, if you have pictures of models wearing clothing…that clothing better damn well be in the store.

This is about as bad a bait and switch as you can do. The posters are really good on portraying a lifestyle, a feeling, a somebody you want to be.  They get you in the store.  So once you’re in the store, don’t you want to buy what was offered?

–       the white sweater you’re hugging that cute boy in

–       the black hoodie you’re splashing in a pile of leaves with

–       the blue t-shirt that makes that girl look at you

We should be able to be that guy/girl and if your store is promising that possibility, you better deliver.  Anytime you don’t, you’re just leaving a bad taste and disappointment associated with your brand.

Nice going.

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14 thoughts on “Coffee: Corporate vs. The Little Guy”

  1. I had the same lack of service experience at Bubby Rose, and it was truly disppointing as I had so wanted it to be something special 😉
    PJ xo

  2. I too am often lured into the land of Starbucks efficiency when I need a caffeine fix or cozy hot girly beverage (yes, I’m mocking you). I get what I need with the most minimal amount of time wasted or effort on my part. Except for the fact that i just paid five bucks for a coffee with a sentence for a name (extra hot, non-fat, low-foam, extra shot vanilla latte…with a twist of lemon).

    I do find their pastries to be mediocre.

    So if you periodically feel the corporate guilt sting and you are looking for great local coffee, with great ambiance and treats, I’m going to recommend Union Pacific. Oh ya…and free wireless.

    1. A too and a big fan of Union Pacific. I’m going there this weekend so should have a review up next week (hope it’s good again). Say what you want about the over-pricing, corporate-lovin’, paragraph-named coffees…there’s a formula there that’s working for them and it involves great customer service.

  3. I, too, would like to echo your disdain for Bubby Rose but for a different reason – it is hippie-central, which is saying a lot for Cook St Village. I just don’t like the vibe in there!

    You should try Khona on the corner of Cook and Fort – the coffee is better than the corporate giant’s overroasted beans.


  4. Honestly I don’t think the customer service is that bad but would agree with you that Starbucks does it better with respect to service…but that’s about it IMO. The coffee at Starbucks doesn’t even come close to Bubby’s (they serve Discovery Coffee which is locally roasted) and most of the food is made there.

  5. So we have great customer service vs. good food. Which is more important? IMO, great customer service will bring you back if the food isn’t top notch, the same can’t be said for great food/bad attitudes. Thoughts?

  6. good food vs customer service
    can’t have one without the other really… if the good food arrives cold because the service is bumbling…no more good food 🙂

  7. I have to disagree about Khona. Their coffee always tastes as though it was brewed from the sour floor sweepings of a Nescafe instant coffee factory, and the slice of loaf I bought there yesterday was definitely stale. The service is pretty comparable to Bubby Rose, too. I’m always amazed to see so many people in there whenever I walk by. But maybe, like me, they live nearby and are just too lazy sometimes to walk downtown to Starbucks, where the coffee isn’t great but the counter staff don’t make you feel like an inconvenience.

  8. I have to say, I have never tried bubbly rose, but have had some pretty lousy service at starbucks too, sent a feedback form to thier corporate office. That and I can’t stand the coffee! I will travel out of my way to get a decent cup of coffee.
    Service is VERY important too. I must say that I don’t think I am willing to go to bubbly rose’s to see what they can offer (or not).

    1. Triciasepicure, I don’t think a lot of companies realize it’s a full package. Great product AND great service. One usually get’s scrificed for the other. Starbucks may not have the best coffee but it’s good enough…and with the great service I’ve received, they’ll keep getting my business.
      What Victoria coffee shop would you recommend?

      1. Hi Russel

        The Black Stilt on Hillside Ave. has both, I have found. Sometimes can be a tad slow, but that is because there are so many people in line..not for their daydreaming. I have also had great service from Serious coffee, again if they are slow, it is because there are people in front of me.

        1. The Black Stilt I have yet to try but will on your recommendation. Serious Coffee…I’ve never been a fan of their product but maybe it’s worth taking a second look. Thanks so much for the suggestions.

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