The Big Gulp at Starbucks

The already ubiquitous coffee chain hopes to triple its outlets—without diluting its boutique-y culture

Starbucks fancies itself a small company, which might ring a little odd, considering that the coffee giant is regularly parodied as being practically unavoidable. Well, the joke is only going to get funnier as the Seattle firm, with its shareholders clearly in mind, gets even bigger, selling more stuff, from hot food to hot music, in more places than ever before. Right now Big Green runs 12,440 locations worldwide, but the goal is 40,000, which would trump even McDonald's.

But McDonald's doesn't try to behave like a chain of boutiques, and that's where the tension inside Starbucks lies. "The battle within...

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