Today I had one of those “please let it end” days, where the only joy came from my Starbucks vanilla latte. Whilst admittedly this sounds slightly hyperbolic (indeed it probably is, my day obviously isn’t that bad compared to others’..), but the important fact is that I could depend on Starbucks to afford me some lunchtime pleasure, and significantly chill time in the midst of a rainy Knightsbridge. I therefore applaud Starbucks for generating this consumer trust as the brand appears to be in line with consumer satisfaction, and symbolic of the whole “meeting with friends over a coffee” concept, as well as providing a welcoming space for any lone street-stragglers. Thus for me, Starbucks represents the ultimate place to spend time if
b) waiting for someone, or-
c) it’s raining;
and I think its global prevalence on the highstreet (pretty much any) and the value of openness encapsulated in the brand successfully achieve this. As such, consumer loyalty to the brand is often accomplished as a result of Starbuck’s notoriety and global standardisation– unlike popping into an unknown independent coffee house, a Starbucks consumer already has a level of knowledge of which drink to choose, the coffee quality, etc. Starbucks therefore is the largest coffeehouse in the world because it is dependable, and consumers know what to expect from the brand.
However, as these article in Marketing Week suggest- Starbucks is going local and going green. Responding to London’s increasing local cafe culture and subsequent mounting competition, Starbucks has begun to get the “independent” look, which equates to a more bespoke store that is responsive to individual neighbourhoods and a need to “create an emotional connection” with its customers. As such, I can only assume that its community notice boards, local charity support and rising number of armchairs mark such an attempt. However, what I always notice about Starbucks is the different atmospheres of its stores, which I would argue are a consequence of their location and their main customers. For example, in trips away from the capital, I appreciate the usually friendlier but also slower service; and the less pushy queues. Likewise timing to Starbucks on weekdays remains crucial to grab that rare window of opportunity where a seat perfect for reading, listening and people-spotting is available.
It is therefore interesting that in the Starbucks on Brompton Road, the design of the store itself has implications on the way people use it and thereby influences how people feel about the brand. There were-
– long tables designed Wagamama-style that made me feel more sociable just by squeezing my elbows in for the person wailing on her phone next to me,
– retro looking chairs (not that comfy or easily moveable but helped the store feel sufficiently edgy and fashionable given the Harrods opposite),
– a new range of coffee (lost on me unfortunately) and most strangely;
– a bookshelf with real books along the back (in this case I think Starbucks has become too trusting!).
And I liked it. This Knightsbridge store was recently designed by Starbucks’ director of design Thom Breslin in light of the rise of the independent coffee-shop; and whilst I am all for the underdog revival, in this instance this eco-friendly imitation suits me very well indeed.