With Starbucks putting the lid on afternoon sales of decaf, Caribou Coffee is trying to create a little caffeine-free buzz of its own. The Brooklyn Center-based company is giving away free cups of the no-caffeine brew at all of its stores today, from noon until closing.
"Decaf drinkers deserve better," pronounced Alfredo Martel, vice president of marketing at Caribou Coffee Co. Inc.
Martel said that store managers had the idea to try to snatch business away from their Seattle-based rival after learning earlier this week that Starbucks is cutting costs by not brewing decaffeinated coffee after noon, unless a customer orders it -- which could take 4 minutes.
"It was sacrilege to them to do something like this," Martel said. "So when the idea came up to make a statement about our passion for serving customers, we said go with it. ... We're a fun-loving brand. We don't mind having a little fun at the expense of our competitors."
Decaf makes up 6 to 10 percent of Caribou's sales, Martel said, and about half of the decaf is sold after noon.
"It's that afternoon user who still loves great-tasting coffee, but doesn't need another jolt of caffeine," he said.
Starbucks, with 17,000 outlets that sometimes sit across the street from each other, said Wednesday that it will close 300 more stores and cut 6,700 workers as quarterly profit fell 69 percent.
Caribou has 452 stores in 19 states, and claims to be the second-largest company-owned gourmet coffeehouse operator in the world, based on number of locations.