Starbucks’ 3-Hour Downtime

February 26, 2008 by

From 5:30-8:30 this evening, there’s going to be trouble. Feet will tap, heads will ache and sweat will trickle down restless foreheads. Starbucks is closing.

6 weeks ago, Howard Schultz took over the reins (again) as CEO of Starbucks. Since then, he’s been on a mission to return the company to its previous form. Today, every store throughout the nation will close for three hours for “remedial espresso training.” Or in Schultz’ terms, “to teach, educate and share our love of coffee, and the art of espresso.”

I beg to differ. This might be about a better cup of coffee, but there’s a lot more to it than that, and it’s pretty slick.


Shutting down your operation creates buzz. Apple knows this; they do all their online store updates in the middle of the day, and they bring down their whole site as the rumor sites go ablaze in anticipation. Starbucks knows this, too.

When you tell the world you are shutting down for three hours to learn to excel or to make changes, when things reopen, people want to investigate. They’ll want to see if the coffee is better and what new tricks the baristas have up their collective, trendy sleeve.

Luckily, I’ve done the dirty work for you here to examine what this means for churches. There’s three steps involved here, and this is what it could look like in your congregation:

  1. Plan something big. It doesn’t have to be some huge production or earth-shattering show. It could be as simple as a new initiative to help the community or unveiling a new missions strategy. Or hey, if it’s your style, it could be a production-heavy event. Be who you are. Whatever it is, make it something that matters — that will change lives and impact people.
  2. Take some time off. Let people know you’re in prayer about what’s coming or that you’re preparing for something huge. This isn’t a bait-and-switch; if you say you’re going to take time off in prayer, do it. If you say you’re working to get better, do it. But let people know that your time off will translate into a new, different or better experience for them.
  3. Deliver. Don’t take a month off and take out ads in the local paper to finally reveal you’re adding a fourth clarinet to the church orchestra in the 6:00 sunrise service. This whole Starbucks thing won’t matter if their coffee doesn’t improve by 8:30 tonight. After you take some time off, people have to be impressed with the effort you made.

I can’t reiterate enough that this shouldn’t be an empty marketing ploy. It’s a simple way to create buzz and momentum for the things your church is passionate about.

Inherently, giving a three-step strategy to market to people sounds fishy. But in this strategy, you communicate what you’re committed to. You convince more people to come and see what you’re passionate about, and you’re showing them that you’re committed to excellence and creativity, even if it means shooting an arrow in the butt of the sacred cow of Sunday morning services.

Post By:

Joshua Cody


Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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8 Responses to “Starbucks’ 3-Hour Downtime”

  • Milan Ford
    February 26, 2008

    Great Post Josh.
    Hope more churches take time out to discover and re-evaluate what (and how) they’re serving as well.
    May take more than 3 hours though.


  • kai
    February 26, 2008

    even tho starbucks is closing for a few hours… bigby (beaners) will be serving all FREE coffees during that time…


  • Now isn’t this post timely? If i may share my own story, just a few days ago after an exhausting night out, our lot decided to hit starubucks for a warm cup of caffeine. To our dismay, the supposedly 24-hour outlet is being closed for an hour or two or three. Well, they weren’t conducting a training but actually having a fumigation – mind you in 2 o’clock in the morning


  • Sam
    February 26, 2008

    Howard Schultz = coffee
    Steve Jobs = Personal computers


  • Jeremy Phillips
    February 26, 2008

    Churches come up with all kinds of ideas that don’t deliver. The goofiest one I have heard is the No Dinner Dinner where they sell $10 tickets to a meal that will never happen to raise money. [no offense to anyone who has participated in such an event] Why not just ask people for $10 each and be done with it.

    There is an obvious difference between an empty gimmick and actual marketing. I think you are right Josh. They could have easily spread this out over a few weeks or done it after hours and no one would have noticed. Good move by Starbucks.


  • Ron B.
    February 27, 2008

    The effects of a “close-down” can mean more to the barristas than the customers. Next year I want our church to give up church for Lent. On one Sunday, we’ll close church for the day. We’ll send our congregation out to other churches they’ve never visited armed with Church-Rater.com surveys. We’ll collect data and impressions, then brainstorm our findings. We may advertise this, but the impact will be mostly for all of our espresso artists – to give them a taste for the broader coffee world out there.


  • Ben Birdsong
    February 27, 2008

    This is a very interesting and smart marketing move on the part of Starbucks. Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention!


  • James Bird
    March 10, 2008

    I think this is a great point and thanks for bringing to my attention. I would be interested to know of any examples of the effects of people taking some time off from services and letting people know. I don’t mean the pastor take a break but more like the church doesn’t open for a few weeks.



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