Starbucks Loses Millions of Customers, and Price Isn’t the Problem

By: Georgia | Published: May 05, 2024

It’s getting tough for coffee lovers at Starbucks, where wait times can stretch to a whopping 20 minutes. The CEO admits that these delays are turning customers away. 

Adding insult to injury, boycotts and bad weather are also turning the daily coffee run into a rarity for some regulars.

Starbucks Sees Dip in Patronage in 2023

The year kicked off on a sour note for Starbucks.

Close-up of a Starbucks cold brew coffee in a clear plastic cup, topped with a creamy layer, featuring the Starbucks logo on the cup

Source: Wikimedia Commons

A noticeable number of customers drifted to competitors or just brewed their morning cup at home. 


A Sudden Drop in Sales

For the first time in nearly three years—since the pandemic’s peak—Starbucks has seen its sales plummet.

Close-up of a green Starbucks logo mounted on a rough concrete wall, depicting the iconic mermaid symbol

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Just months after reporting record earnings, the slowdown has come as a jolt, with the CEO pointing to those ever-growing lines as a key culprit.

Custom Orders Create Chaos

Starbucks’ signature custom drinks are a hit, but there’s a catch: they take time.

A Starbucks Frappuccino in a clear plastic cup with a domed lid, placed on a café table, featuring drizzles of caramel and chocolate, with a Starbucks logo on the cup

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Baristas crafting everything from Frappuccinos to pumpkin spice lattes means each order eats into service speed, frustrating customers and impacting the chain’s efficiency.

Forecast: Slow Sales Ahead

With around 17,000 locations across North America, Starbucks is bracing for a continued slump through the warmer months.

Exterior view of a Starbucks coffee shop with a black facade and large glass windows, showing customers inside and the green Starbucks logo prominently displayed

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The coffee chain has signaled to investors that the slow pace might not pick up anytime soon.

Controversies Brewing

Starbucks has found itself steeped in controversy, with boycotts making a dent in sales, especially on college campuses.

Night scene showing a protest outside a Starbucks with a green chair and a sign reading "Boycott Starbucks" alongside other protest materials, on a city sidewalk

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These actions stem from the company’s perceived stance on global military actions.


Mobile Order Mishaps Mount

In an eye-opening chat, CEO Laxman Narasimhan said, “We have customers coming to our stores today, or on mobile order pay, who don’t fulfill their transaction because of wait times.”

Inside a Busy Starbucks Store

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It’s clear Starbucks is struggling to retain customers due to lengthy wait times.


App Frustrations

A significant slice of Starbucks’ clientele who place orders via the mobile app never pick them up when stores are swamped.

Close-up of three white Starbucks cups lined up, each featuring the iconic green Starbucks mermaid logo, set against a dark, blurred background

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This high abandonment rate illustrates the challenges Starbucks faces in streamlining its service.


Social Media Criticism

Online platforms are abuzz with customer complaints about the wait times at Starbucks. 

Image of a Starbucks logo illuminated on the side of a building with a modern architectural style, framed by silhouetted leaves against a dusk sky showing hues of pink and blue

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The cries for an express line for simple, quick orders like a black coffee are growing louder, highlighted by viral complaints on platforms like TikTok.


Stocks Decline

Following the announcement of disappointing quarterly results, Starbucks saw its stock value dip to a two-year low. 

A Starbucks iced coffee placed on a metal table outdoors next to a book with a blue cover

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During an interview, the CEO stood his ground as host Jim Cramer delivered harsh critiques.


More Than Just Coffee Problems

It’s not just the long lines. Weather woes in the U.S. and faltering demand in China, Starbucks’ second-biggest market, have also brewed trouble. 

Close-up view of an illuminated round Starbucks sign hanging outside a café, set against a dark background with soft focus on nearby trees

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The CEO cited these issues as part of the reason for the disappointing performance.


Rivals on the Rise

As Starbucks grapples with these issues, competitors are not just catching up—they’re pulling ahead.

A close-up of a Starbucks coffee in a white ceramic mug topped with whipped cream, set on a coaster with small white tiles, with a blurred background enhancing the focus on the mug

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Tim Horton’s, McDonald’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts have not only retained their customers but are also chipping away at Starbucks’ market share, confidently claiming a bigger piece of the pie.