General

The Overall Opinion of Starbucks Coffee is Hurt by Philadelphia Incident

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The Gist: The percentage of the U.S. adults who love drinking Starbucks coffee dramatically decreased after the coffee chain gained negative press late last week. Among Millennials, the change in opinion was even greater.


If you’re not following current events as hawkishly as we do, you may have missed why Starbucks has been in the news since last Thursday. A Philadelphia Starbucks employee called 911 after noticing two black men seated at a table who had not yet ordered anything. The men were waiting for a friend, and therefore, to order.

The police showed up and arrested them for trespassing. Confused, bystanders took footage of the incident causing it to go viral. There are protests outside of the store. Some are calling for a larger boycott of Starbucks.

One benefit of our system is the ability to see exactly how consumers feel about a brand quickly. Our system is always tracking this. Since this Starbucks incident made national news, we decided to take a peek to see if the needle moved at all on the brand’s favorability among the U.S. population.

U.S. adults who ‘love’ to drink Starbucks coffee has remained flat over the past year; that is, until this month. It plummeted from 12% to 8% who say they love Starbucks.  The lowest percentage of the general population we’ve seen say they love Starbucks was 9% in fall of 2016. This is a new low.

We also see the group who ‘don’t like’ Starbucks is up and down in general over the past year, but it took a quicker uptick from March to April. 41% of U.S. adults say they did not like Starbucks in March, but this grew to 43% in April.

Segmenting this by only Millennials (those ages 18-34) we see an even bigger change in favorability to the brand (orange line is ‘like’, the blue line is ‘love’) and an increase in people who ‘don’t like’ Starbucks (red line).

Those are the numbers. Since the brand has condemned the incident and is taking steps to make it right, and the employee who called 911 is no longer working for the company, we wonder if the brand’s favorability will rebound just as quickly as it was impacted. Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson publicly condemned what happened and will meet with two men in-person today, at his request.

We’ll get back to you on if Johnson’s vow to ‘fix this’ works.

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