Did Starbucks or McDonald’s Get More PR Mileage This Week?

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, February 29, 2008 at 12:37 PM with 0 comments

In addition to this week having the leap year day of February 29, it was also a week that featured public relation moves by 2 of the world’s largest restaurateurs – McDonald’s and Starbucks. Each had a cost, got some attention, but who got the most mileage?

On Tuesday, February 26, Starbucks closed all of their US stores for 3 hours to retrain their baristas (the ones who make the coffee drinks) on the art of espresso. For those who don’t know, espresso coffee is not only a standalone drink, but the key component of many of their coffee drinks, such as the latte. This affected all 7,100 of their US stores.

On Thursday and Friday, February 28 & 29, McDonald’s gave away a free McSkillet Burrito breakfast sandwich with the purchase of a drink in all of their US stores. The McSkillet is a relatively new addition to their menu, a large burrito filled with just about every ingredient of a hearty breakfast, including eggs, cheese and sausage.

Both of these events have a cost – lost revenue for Starbucks, but the shutdown was in the early evening when traffic is not as busy as compared to the morning commute, and potential lost revenue for McDonald’s, but you also needed to buy a drink, which have high revenue margins.

Where both companies did these promotions to get free publicity, the reasons behind Starbucks shutdown for training are not purely for marketing. Its founder Howard Schultz has retaken the helm of the company and is trying to get the coffee shop to regain its mojo, or at least that is what I have called it before. Anyone can say they are retraining its staff, but the point gets across much better when you can see it for yourself. The site of an empty Starbucks at the corner of North and Wells in Chicago, a normally bustling, 24/7 location, was something to see.

So who made out better on this? My vote is for Starbucks. First off, most people I asked learned about the free breakfast item from me, where I heard many people talking about Starbucks. And so was the evening news, local and national. Whether you believe the training makes a difference or not, you know Starbucks did so, that they care enough to shut down to do so, and that speaks volumes over something for free.

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