Amid reports of a woman served her latte with stirred in satanic symbols, Starbucks has quelled a customer revolt over the loss of lemon cake from its menu offerings. The past week has been unkind to the coffee giant as word spread over a Louisiana teacher Meghan K. Pinion being served lattes with a satanic symbol inscribed in the cream in one of them and 666 inscribed in the other. A public relations gaff for the normally well-behaved business behemoth is unusual. Unfortunately for the coffee retailer, the satanic snafu occurred as the company was announcing the return of prior sliced cake favorites.
Ms. Pinion posted Facebook pictures last week of her Starbucks order delivered with a side of Satan. She frequents a Baton Rouge location and is generally pleased with its service. Her recent latte order included what looks like a pentagram, which is known as a satanic symbol. If there was any doubt as to the intent, the second latte included 666, also widely believed to be the numerical association with the Anti-Christ. Whether the barista had evil intent or was playing a joke is unclear. Most likely the person whipping up the order wanted to spice up their day with a prank. Unfortunately for Starbucks, Ms. Pinion, a Catholic, was appalled by her order and posted an image of the offending lattes. The restaurant headquarters has offered an apology for her appalling order.
The return of sliced lemon, pumpkin and banana cake comes to the relief of many customers. The coffee giant walks a fine line between morning coffee spot and upscale eatery. Many customers prefer simple fare. When the coffee retailer bought the pastry maker La Boulange in 2012 the hope was that fancy pasties could spice up its bottom line. The old standby slices from lemon, pumpkin and banana loaves were dropped in favor of La Boulange produced pastries. This menu change discouraged many customers who appreciated the simpler taste treats. Many of these customers took to Facebook and twitter to lodge their complaints.
The menu turnaround was designed to be happy news for many. Unfortunately for the restaurant brand, the happy news of the return of simple cake slices to the menu has occurred amid the reports of the satanic latte stir. Starbucks is generally responsive to changing tastes and preferences, in this instance their zeal to capitalize on enhanced pastry offerings backfired on them. The relief and happiness of longtime customers is drowned out, in part, by the news of the offending satanic laced order. Keeping younger employees in line is almost as pleasing millions of customers on a daily basis. The coffee giant human resources department will no doubt add more questions to its interview checklist. Can you avoid massive PR disasters by eliminating satanic messages in your latte servings?
One hopes for the sake of Starbucks that the uproar over satanic messages stirred into caffeinated beverages will die down amid the returned satisfaction of those with simple cake cravings. If so, the public relations department for the giant business can sleep well at night again.
By William Costolo