In a long-anticipated move, the U.S. Government filed anti-trust action against Starbucks Coffee, the world’s largest chain of coffee shops. Justice claims that Starbucks has used its monopoly power to stifle competition and innovation in the coffee shop market. Starbucks says they have used their market share only to provide a delicious beverages—and combat evil. Prosecutors disagree. They argue that bundling their coffee beverage with pastries violates the “separation of food and drink” clause in the constitution. “We feel pastry is an essential component of a complete Starbucks Coffee experience,” counters Franz Beckenbauer, chief marketing director and playmaker for Starbucks. “We’ve developed our pastries to perform as an integrated part of our coffee platform.” Restaurants have been doing this forever? Why can’t we?
To answer this question would require careful examination of the law, or at least watching CNN for a few minutes. Apparently, a restaurant can designate any combination of side dish and entree to be sold together. This is okay because the government considers both the side dish and entrée as solid food items, at least until 2005 when Dennis Hastert gets to eat them all. But it is illegal to include a particular beverage as part of that deal. According to Larry Tribal Council, professor of law and food critic, “A restaurant can legally refuse to substitute fries for potato salad, for your side dish. But if I said, ‘you can have a burger and fries, but you must have it with this egg nog,’ I could go to jail.” What about the extra value meals at fast food restaurants which often include fries and a soda? As it turns out, in Potato v. Clark, the supreme court upheld the practice citing the ample variety in soda choices. Justice, however, argues that for an employee to suggest or encourage the customer to buy a pastry with that espresso, is in fact, tantamount to bribery, which is the same as lying under oath, which is the same as doing 50 in a 30, and is basically like having unprotected sex with the rule of law itself. Hearings are set to begin in a few.