McDonald’s has erected a billboard in sight of Starbucks headquarters declaring, “four bucks is dumb.” If Dunkin’ Donuts’ taste test commercials were the schoolyard equivalent of blowing spitballs at the coffee giant from afar, then the latest from McDonald’s is like pulling a wedgie. Starbucks employees driving northbound can see the billboard on their way into the city.
Another billboard slogan jabs, “large is the new grande.” The two phrases are displayed on 140 billboards in Western Washington, some of them near Starbucks cafes.
“The billboard placement was done because we picked high visibility locations,” said Alan Finkelstein, who owns four McDonald’s in King County. “We really wanted to point out that ordering an espresso at McDonald’s is quick and simple. Small, medium and large. It’s easy.”
While the coffee wars received much media and Wall Street trumpeting this year, Starbucks has been mostly silent, maintaining that its customer base is different.
Starbucks could fire back that not all of its coffee costs four bucks, or that extra cents help pay for health care for baristas. (A 12-ounce cup of brew starts at $1.40 at Starbucks, a penny more than the average McDonald’s brew price. A small McDonald’s latte costs $1.99 compared with $2.45 to $3.15 at Starbucks.) Instead, it is fighting back in a more subtle way. Executives have hinted that Starbucks is taking the high road. “We’re not going to get into that conversation. We’re not going to get sucked into the, ‘My coffee is better than your coffee,’ price point type of coffee conversation. We’re going to play at a much higher level.”
I never understood the pretentiousness of Starbucks. And yeah, 4 bucks is dumb.