I started working on GigaOM mostly at my neighborhood Starbucks store. I would sit there after work, and plan how I would turn GigaOM from “one man and a blog” to a media company. It goes without saying that I have a special fondness for the location and for Starbucks. Of course, I am not as fond of the chain as as Rafael Antonio Lozano Jr. aka Winter who is on a mission to visit almost all Starbucks stores, chronicling his journey on Starbuckseverywhere.net.
Just like me, Starbucks has been home to many wanna-prenuers and web workers. Easy access to the Internet, ample sitting space and coffee (while expensive). When we started the company, I used Starbucks as a place to meet companies. Often I would spend somewhere between $15-and-$25 a day at the Starbucks, so much so they made me “customer of the week” once. However, lately something about Starbucks has not been feeling right. They are making some cuts because of the economy, some of them understandable, others just plain illogical.
For instance, I can’t understand why they shut down all their locations at 6 p.m. in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district. Most places are
teaming teeming with people when they start shutting down the stores at six. What that tells me is that the chain has become so big that it doesn’t have the ability to hone in on the needs of stores based on their location. More importantly, the quality of the coffee seems to be off as well. In comparison, Peet’s drinks always taste better and feel less “industrial.”
Having reduced my coffee intake to a couple of decaf espressos, I can’t say I got to Starbucks for coffee. Instead, I continue to use it for a place to write and meet (despite having an office), but the attraction is going down by the day.
I was discussing exactly this very thing (where else but at Starbucks) and he pointed out that Starbucks’ has the Detroit problem. Starbucks, he said, was not focusing on it core competency (good coffee) and unique selling point (a place to gather.)The music level is too loud to have a conversation, thus making it less attractive as a place to hang out with friends, colleagues and acquaintances. This in turn, gives Starbucks more feel of a “chain.”
That is why many of us find joys in patronizing smaller cafes such as Blue Bottle Coffee and Philz in San Francisco. There are countless others dotting the American landscape. The irony is that Starbucks is responsible for making fancy coffee drinks part of the American life.
Photo courtesy of Marcopako via Flickr.