David Schomer wrote in his 1996 article "Creating a Culture of Excellence",
"...We push and pull each other into better, more consistent performance as the cusine advances. Each person is totally excited to do his or her absolute best."
and he echoes this thought in his 2001 article "How to Compete with Starbucks", where he wraps up by writing,
"Soul alone is not enough. It is really the focus on espresso excellence and personal, intelligent service that is the edge over the big corporation, provided the independent can do everything as professionally as the big boys do it. Starbucks is a wake-up call to those dabblers that think the coffee business is easy and I say that is good. We do not want to go the way of the yogurt shops of the eighties. They will force us to create a culture of espresso excellence to survive."
The sad fact is, that while many complain about the problems with Starbucks, they seek only to become an imitation of Starbucks, and expect people to love them because they are a 'local' or 'independent' imitation, instead of focusing on creating excellence. There's always a lot of talk about 'we do quality this' and 'we train all of our barista,' etc., but when you actually find out what many of these shops are doing, the sad reality is they are creating an appearance of excellence with no excellence at their core.
Excellence begins with the heart and soul of the ownership. Ownership must have passion, consistency, persistence, and a desire to improve daily. If the leadership,--owner, manager, lead barista, etc., do not have all of these qualities, they will never really compete, they will be just 'another' caffe. Improvement must be an improvement in quality. Rather than asking youself, "How do I make more money?", ask yourself "How do I improve (my drink, my technique, my knowledge, my equipment, my service, etc.)?" Customers are becoming more educated as more and more quality coffee/espresso shops open up, and those who thought they could compete by having comfy chairs, live music, or a winning smile, are finding out that they need newer gimmicks to keep the customers coming. You will never lose customers if you build on a foundation of excellence, you will only gain a loyal following of passionate coffee friends.