Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Starbuck Observations

So I took some time out on Saturday to visit my local Starbucks. I figured it would be a chance to get some reading done and to absorb some of the 'power of Starbucks'. As someone who doesn't drink coffee, I do not have a daily latte habit (nevertheless, I waste my money buying tickets for Cal Basketball) so visiting SBUX is a rare treat for me (Treat times include: desperate for a clean bathroom, away from home with 30 minutes to spare, etc)

The Irving St Starbucks was definitely different. Located on a busy intersection off of 19th Avenue, the store picks up a lot of food traffic. During my visit there was a constant stream of people and the spectrum of people frequenting the Starbucks struck me as odd. Unlike other locations, there were literally people of every size, shape and color coming through the doors (the Sunset district is not generally that diverse). There were even some patrons who appeared destitute but had saved enough cash for a good cup of java (or maybe the transformative Starbucks "experience".)

I thought it was odd that this Starbucks had a set of bins dedicated for children. The colored bin was filled with coloring books, toys and other assorted kids products. Starbucks is often considered a haven for people -- a place that people can escape their daily stress. I thought it was funny that kids (often the source of much noise and stress) were embraced at this location.

My visit took place a couple of days after the well-publicized Starbucks 'shutdown' project and I think some of the after effects were still visible. The employees I saw were friendly and more importantly appeared to be having fun with one another. I witnessed several 'baristas' having whipped cream (within appropriate levels) fights and lots of friendly joking. I think the shutdown was a brilliant move. Shutting down for three hours gave the company a chance to celebrate the importance of their 'associates' (they aren't called employees at SBUX), they got some great media coverage (as every media outlet covered the news) and reinforced that they are a company that does business differently.

Although their growth has slowed recently and they've had some recent stumbles-- the company's unique culture still shines through. They did a nice job on my Vanilla Bean frappucino too.

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