News Column

Caribou Lovers Grind Owner Over Fresh Changes

April 12, 2013

Mike Hughlett -- Star Tribune

Caribou Coffee's Facebook page has been lit up -- mostly with criticism from loyal customers -- since this week's announcement of the closing of more than 160 Caribou outlets, greatly diminishing the brand's presence in several states.

The Brooklyn Center-based chain will shut 80 Caribou coffeehouses on Sunday and convert another 88 to the Peet's Coffee & Tea brand, which is owned by the same German conglomerate that bought Caribou four months ago.

Many customers whose favorite Caribou locations are affected reported on Facebook that they're not happy -- some expressing sorrow, others anger.

"My whole family will truly miss the Caribou in [the Chicago suburb of] Naperville, IL!!" wrote Lynn Hanson Hoff. "It was the go to place for everything ... The store is always busy and the staff wonderful."

Fritz Walters wrote that "our Caribou in Michigan is a very important part of our community. On any given day, you will see people of different ages, colors and backgrounds enjoying its comfy atmosphere."

But Walters added that he's "well-versed in for-profit corporate restructuring efforts and this radical, high-speed "flipping" just comes across as very disingenuous to those of us (both customers and employees) who have been "brand loyal" for years. What is the value of 'good will' to the bottom line?"

Joh. A. Benckiser (JAB) Group purchased California-based Peet's for nearly $1 billion last year before snapping up Caribou for $340 million. After the changes, almost 470 Caribou outlets will remain in several states, particularly in the Upper Midwest.

Minnesota, by far Caribou's biggest market, will be mostly spared from the chain's shrinkage. Only three of Caribou's 201 stores in the Twin Cities will close.

But except for a handful of franchisee-owned stores, the Caribou brand largely will disappear from Michigan and Illinois, the latter being Caribou's second-largest market with more than 60 outlets. In Ohio, the third-largest market with nearly 40 coffeehouses, all of Caribou's locations appear to be company-owned, and all will close or become Peet's.

In a statement to the Star Tribune on Wednesday, Caribou CEO Michael Tattersfield said, "We understand many loyal fans are disappointed their local Caribou will be closing, and hope they know this was a very difficult decision for us. We invite our fans to continue coming to us with questions via our customer service team and Facebook page."

Caribou customers took their beefs to Peet's Facebook site, too, with two Chicago-area residents declaring simply: "BOYCOTTING Peet's for sure."

Other posters on Peet's Facebook page were enthused about the Peet's brand coming to their hometowns. "Was sad Caribou in Solon, OH was closing," wrote Teri Callahan. "But I am super excited if I can find Peet's in Ohio."

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(c)2013 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Distributed by MCT Information Services



Source: Copyright Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) 2013


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