Starbucks Breakfast Pairings: A Cheesy, Sausage-Filled Escape From the Recession?

Starbucks Breakfast

Starbucks newest attempt to lure in value-minded consumers.

As I mentioned yesterday, The New York Times reported last week that Starbucks is trying another tactic to lure in customers who have forgone pricey coffee drinks as they pinch their pennies: “breakfast pairings” for under $3.95. This clever marketing tactic takes aim at the notion that all Starbucks sells are $4 lattes.

Given that I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest and was an avid Starbucks consumer in my youth, I’ve been following Starbucks’ reaction to the recession with great interest. In the spirit of investigation, and to fulfill my deep yearning for a breakfast sandwich, I decided try out one of these new “breakfast pairings.” After all, I might be taking a bite of the company’s ticket out of the recession.

My coworker and I headed over to Starbucks last Friday to pick up a breakfast treat.

First of all, considering that Starbucks has been doing a major media roll out for this new line of breakfast items, I was surprised at the low-key in-store advertising. There was a small sign in the window about the new offerings, and one of the chalkboards announced that there were breakfast pairings for $3.95, but that was it. I didn’t see anything in the pastry display case about the new items, which is usually where I look to decide what I want to buy. If I hadn’t looked up the menu items on the Web site beforehand, I wouldn’t have known what to order.

Also, the people working at the Starbucks seemed kind of confused about the program. I had to specifically ask the person behind the register if the breakfast sandwich and tall coffee I ordered would be available for the $3.95 price, since it seemed like she was ringing up each item separately. Still, I paid the right price, which is the most important thing.

As for the sandwich itself? Sadly, they were out of the one I really wanted to try – the artisan bacon sandwich with frittata and Gouda on an artisan roll (mmmm). Instead, I made due with the sausage breakfast sandwich. I’m not sure if I’m really the breakfast sandwich target audience, since I think the breakfast sandwiches they sell at Dunkin’ Doughnuts and McDonalds are gross (I hate American cheese).

But I thought the Starbucks version was pretty awesome – the sausage was spicy and flavorful, the egg was well cooked, and the English muffin was lightly toasted and warm. And it was perfect with my 12 oz cup of black coffee. And I have to admit, it appealed to the value-conscious consumer in me. After all, it was a substantial breakfast for less than I’d pay in a restaurant, and just a little bit more than a grande Frappuccino.

The breakfast pairings are a strong product, but the in-store promotion needs to match better with the media promotion. Also the experience was souring because I wasn’t allowed to take any photos of the in-store advertising. When I took out my camera it was like I had unveiled a Doomsday Device – I was forcefully told that taking photos in the stores was against company policy. It was an annoying end to a less than perfect buying experience. But, thankfully, the breakfast sandwich made up for it in the end.

Has anyone else tried the new Starbucks breakfast items? Do you think it’s a good value?


1 Comment »

  1. Joanne said

    I went and had a Starbuck’s breakfast pairing today. I’ve been eating Starbucks breakfast sandwiches for years. My favorite was the bacon, egg, and cheese bagel of years gone by. They discontinued it because the bagel supposedly fell apart in the warmer, though that never happened to me. Today, I had the sausage sandwich like you, and it was delicious, the sausage was very tasty. I went to the one on New Mexico Avenue a few blocks away from American University (my doctor’s office is there). There was a 3′-4′ sign outside, one the same size inside, and numerous advertisements for the special around the menu, so the amount of advertising may be location specific. They were also giving free samples of their cinnamon cake, which was good. At over $4 with tax, it’s still a special treat for me, but I was not disappointed.

    I will say though, I have “pedestrian” breakfast tastes. I love love love McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches, especially because of the American cheese. However, I would not really call it American cheese, because I think it tastes better than that. To my tastebuds, it’s definitly a superior processed cheese food product than the average yellow-orange slice. I mean, I eat the cheese food product off the wrapper, which I do not recommend doing while driving. The cheese comes of the wrapper so cleanly and doesn’t string behind like the more respected cheddar cheese. I’m not alone in my dedication to McD’s cheese food product, Gary also thinks it’s delicious– we’re so meant to be :o)

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