Dear Starbucks: Why can’t you be more like McDonald’s?

On my way to work each morning, I buy a cup of coffee for the train. Starbucks is right on my corner, so it’s my go-to choice. (And I finally got the app to recognize my credit card, which was a complicated process that had to be done on the Web instead of my iPhone. My tech ability was not to blame, so don’t go there!)

Anyway, I’m always in a hurry and all I want is a Tall Dark Roast but there are at least six people in front of me ordering Venti Soy Lattes with an extra espresso shot or perusing the breakfast selections—at the prompting of the one employee taking orders (“Would you like an egg and cheese sandwich on artisan ciabatta or our special muffin of the month with your coffee today?”) —and taking forever to decide between the oatmeal and breakfast bun. So getting a coffee takes way too long for a commuter on a tight schedule.

Now I’m very fussy about coffee, and I only like certain dark roasts. I do pass a Dunkin’ Donuts on the way to the train, where the line is shorter and the service faster. But its coffee tastes like swill to me—even their new dark roast, clearly introduced to compete with Starbucks.

I wish there was a McDonald’s on my way to the train. I never thought I would say this after sitting through countless McDonald’s birthday parties when my kids were young, or giving in to their pleas for chicken nuggets on the way home from school and having my car smell like fryer grease for days.  But I speak as a person in need of a quick morning java jolt.

McDonald’s has gotten a bad rap lately for a number of missteps. But the burger giant upgraded its coffee program a few years ago—one thing they really got right for this boomer-age customer—and the coffee is really good. A nice dark roast blend and only a buck a cup no matter what size you get (small, medium or large here, none of that pretentious grande and venti nonsense.) And it’s a very speedy transaction, whether you buy it at the counter or the drive-thru.

When I lived in New York, some Starbucks units made it easier to get a non-specialty drip coffee. You paid for your cup, took it to an area near the condiment counter and dispensed it yourself from a hot pot. But I haven’t seen that simple throughout fix anywhere in Chicago.

And, oh, those condiment counters. The other morning I was pouring some milk in my Starbucks coffee when another boomer customer—totally unsolicited—started ranting about the condiments. “This is a mess,” he said. “They cram so much into a small counter and only one customer can get to the milk or sugars at a time. Why don’t they make the counter longer and two-sided, so more people can access it at once?”

Since it was early in the morning and I wasn’t recording this conversation, I’m taking a little liberty with the paraphrasing here. But you should get the gist of it, Starbucks. Are you listening?

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