Starbucks new CEO’s first big menu change hits customers up for an extra $1 for fruity Refreshers ‘hack’ 

New Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan
Laxman Narasimhan took over as CEO from company founder Howard Schultz in March with a plan to streamline the way baristas work.
Guillermo Gutierrez—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Starbucks has officially launched its summer menu, and one change is not going down all that well with customers. 

The ubiquitous coffee chain has instructed staff to begin charging extra for certain customizations of its popular Refreshers fruit drinks since Tuesday.

Those that ask to hold the water will have to pay a dollar more, since it requires extra ingredients to be added. 

“Starbucks Refreshers beverages can still be customized with light or no ice free of charge,” a spokesperson told the New York Post.

While responses on social media sites called the company “greedy” or “stingy,” some observers frustrated by the recent trend toward TikTok hacks that holds up the line and anger baristas applauded the move.

“I couldn’t be more excited for the price increase!!!! Hack over,” wrote poster “MarielenaR” on the viral platform.

When the popular drink first debuted in 2012, the company said it offered a “distinctly new take on thirst-quenching refreshment while providing a natural boost of energy from green coffee extract and real fruit juice.”

The beverage, which uses caffeine from unroasted arabica beans, has since expanded to numerous flavors. Last week it won notable praise from finance chief Rachel Ruggeri as a difficult-to-replicate menu item that requires consumers to come to Starbucks to buy them. 

New changes in store under Schultz successor

The new charge is one of the first menu changes instituted under the leadership of Laxman Narasimhan, who took over from company founder Howard Schultz on March 20.

When the board first named the native Indian, Schultz borrowed a metaphor from U.S. professional sports, calling the former Reckitt Benckiser CEO “a number one draft choice” that would obviate the need for him to return a fourth time as CEO.  

During the second fiscal quarter conference call, it became clear the board hired him not just for his international background and expertise in emerging markets, but for his experience as a corporate consultant at McKinsey with a focus on efficiency and optimization.

“To strengthen our health, we need to think of our businesses having theaters in the front with a factory in the back,” he told investors last Tuesday

In other words, everything a consumer sees when they enter a store should add to the Starbucks experience, while everything behind the curtain needs to operate like a well-oiled machine with as little waste, duplication, and complexity as possible.  

“Currently we have over 1,500 cup and lid combinations across our network, as we streamline, we will create a portfolio of fewer, more sustainable, and less costly cups while further simplifying operations in our stores,” he said. “All of these opportunities will deliver top-line growth and margin expansion.”

Perhaps most surprising however was his departure from the rule of thumb that if something isn’t broken, don’t fix it. 

“As a leadership team, we fully acknowledge a need to evolve and modernize our brand, our business, our capabilities, and our culture to meet the needs of an ever-changing world. We are therefore refounding the company, and as part of that we are getting back to its basics.”

Investors will likely have to wait another few months to find out from Narasimhan precisely what that means going forward.

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