Starbucks put me out of business is the scapegoat of choice for coffee shops that are operated poorly. Competition is as much an opportunity for specialty coffee businesses as it is a threat. Starbucks does not put independent coffee shop operators out of business: some combination of bad business, customer service and beverages, however, will.

All across America, we find that sales at well-run independent coffee retailers INCREASE when a Starbucks or other chain location opens nearby. Contrary to the popular perception that the bullies of corporate America are beating up on the proverbial “little guy,” new Starbucks locations act as a catalyst to educate consumers on what types of specialty coffee products are available and encourages them to become part of a daily routine. Proliferation of coffee shops in a small region fosters the development of cafe culture, substantially increasing the percentage of volume of coffee consumption by consumers. An independent coffee shop in direct competition with any chain then has the opportunity to draw on that new market with a substantially better tasting product and advantageous public persona, to boot.

The independent coffee retailer must be more than a poor man’s Starbucks clone – unless you are serving a consistently outstanding products and have your business strategy clearly set, your business will fall short of its full potential, possibly beyond hope of profitability. Consumers buy from you because of what you do for them, not because they like you or feel some kind of community obligation to do so… that’s not “unfair” competition, it’s just competition.

For anyone out there considering playing the Starbucks get-out-of-blame-free card, I urge you to do your homework and run your business better. There are a myriad of resources available, many of which are low-cost or even free. Learning how to improve your marketing, your brand, your product and even obtaining financing is no more than a few clicks on, trip to the public library or a phone call for some outside assistance away. You cannot expect to achieve better results from the same old way of doing things; you must continuously improve both yourself and your business if you wish to stay competitive or you too may become extinct at the hands of some invasive species.