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April 11, 2014

Starbucks retools pastry menu after customer complaints

CHICAGO — Starbucks is bringing back the sliced lemon cake.

After the coffee chain bought gourmet-baking company La Boulange in 2012, it used the acquisition to add fancier pastries to U.S. locations. Now Starbucks is discovering that some customers liked the food better before, prompting another round of retooling.

"We've got a few products that we are going to bring back from the old menu," Troy Alstead, chief operating officer for Seattle-based Starbucks, said in an interview. "Some customers missed a few things."

Starting this week, the company will begin reverting to selling slices of banana, pumpkin and iced-lemon loaf cake - old favorites - in its U.S. stores. Starbucks will be using new La Boulange recipes and existing suppliers to create food that more closely resembles its previous fare.

Getting the menu right is critical to Starbucks' U.S. growth strategy. In a saturated coffee market, the company is trying to entice more customers to add a pastry or croissant to their latte orders. Starbucks also faces mounting breakfast competition from fast-food chains: McDonald's has been offering pastries at some locations this year, and everyone from Taco Bell to Burger King is trying to boost morning sales.

For Starbucks, the challenge is providing fancier fare than the typical fast-food joint - yet not too fancy. Fans of the old Starbucks food have complained that the new pastries are too pricey and small. Since the chain began introducing La Boulange's line of baked goods across the U.S., customers have taken to Twitter and Yelp to air their grievances.

Chicago resident Jeff Pavia, 53, posted a Yelp review saying he was rethinking his loyalty to Starbucks after the chain stopped serving the coffee cake and morning buns that his 82-year-old mother loved.

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