Wish Upon a Star(Bucks)

I had a Starbucks moment this morning. It was 5 a.m. I'd just gotten off a red eye from San Francisco, where I'd been attending Ad:Tech. And I had an hour stopover in Atlanta before continuing home.

To my surprise, despite the early hour, several of the newsstands and food shops were open -- including a plate glass-walled, well-lit Starbucks complete with comfortable easy chairs. I got a grande latte and a bagel with cream cheese, plopped myself down in an easy chair, and just soaked it up. The latte. The chair. The lighting. The openness afforded by the glass -- not your usual dark, cluttered airport restaurant. The music.

I've been to Starbucks before. But this is the first time that what they're trying to do really hit me. That chair, music, coffee, lighting, and openness was so what I needed just then. And it was amazing how I felt just sitting there. If Starbucks can figure out how to deliver that feeling consistently -- even when I'm not 5 a.m. red-eye Atlanta stopover tired and needing a safe haven -- they'll be golden.

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10 Comments

  • passages

    Starbucks are only as good as their staff. My latest experience at Leeds train station (UK) was..."I'd like a tall mocca frappucino to go please"..."no, not a caramel latte"..."to GO"...and so on...I could have been speaking a different language for all the good I had getting through. The ambience can be great, but if the staff can't *listen* and come up with the goods when you're in a hurry, then all the comfy sofas in the world won't make a difference

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  • Matthew Keller

    In terms of the consistent delivery of a differentiated and enjoyable experience, Starbucks has its act down. I remember reading that the environment Heath experienced is something Starbucks reserves to (or used to refer to) as "the third place" -- a place between work and home where you feel comfortable enough to sit and enjoy your coffee and bagel in a relaxed, pleasing environment. Not sure if that's still part of Starbucks guiding philosophy, but regardless, it's what they've been successful in creating.

    The one thing I worry about are Starbucks products: I decided, upon stopping into my local Starbucks on the way to work several weeks ago, to pick up lunch there, an Asian noodle salad from a refrigerated case. I was shocked to learn later that day, upon studying the label, that the small bowl of noodles, Napa cabbage, carrots, red pepper, and almonds -- with a small container of peanut dressing -- contained almost 60 grams of fat. Similarly, many of their sandwiches have high fat content. It does have me suspicious that my tall Mocha Valencia with two percent may not be the healthiest way to start a morning -- and, consequently, stopping by less.

  • Jason

    Starbucks used to be good at being big and acting small, and I think they have lost most of that feeling to consumers.

    For most of us "Seattleites" it's all about the coffee. I compare Starbucks to "Fosters" beer in that people identify "Fosters" with Australia, but ask how many locals actually drink "Fosters".
    Same thing in Seattle..............

  • Chris

    Those days are the days when you finally, recognize good and bad companies out of their fruits...

    There's still great companies and good people that do really cares...

    Few days ago, I could share he same incredible feelings when I sat at a the first STARBUCK in Paris....

    As much as I hate Mc Donald's I love Starbucks,
    These guys are the future...

    Take care !

  • david

    There's a coffee shop near my office that's cheaper than Starbucks and even offers FREE WiFi access. But the staff is a tad shy of surly, the music is often too loud and the chairs aren't as comfortable.

    I admit it... most days around lunch time you'll find me at the Starbucks in Darian CT sucking down a decaf venti and checking my email. I can't put my finger on it but they just create a better 'sit down, take a load off and enjoy a good cup of joe' atmosphere.

  • A Wong

    Starbucks? It is a haven whether you are in Kansas City or Kuala Lumpur. I know some people are against mega-chains but this one, we keep. No matter which Starbucks I go to, and I have been to a lot around the world from Seattle to Hong Kong (the long way round across the Atlantic), they have been there for me. It's almost like coming "home", you just know what you are getting and they do make you feel you are in one.

  • Dave Orsborn

    I agree with Gemma- the staff at my local Starbucks makes the experience complete. When I walk in the door at 6am they are already pouring my "usual" and always welcome me back- it is so nice to be recognized! There are certain things I expect- the coffee to be fresh and hot, the store to be clean, etc. If these things aren't done well there is no way that a personal greeting would be enough to keep me coming back. But, this staff covers the basics and then goes just a bit further to create a great experience for me.

    I'll contrast that with my local Cingular store- last night I went in to get a new phone- here I was "greeted" with a sign-in sheet and told I could "wait if I want to, but it's an hour to an hour-and-a-half wait". Love it or leave. The wait was what it was- only two people working an a store full of people waiting for help- still, I'm sure they could have done something to make the customers feel more welcome.
    Dave

  • Gemma Teed

    Starbucks are only as good as their staff. My latest experience at Leeds train station (UK) was..."I'd like a tall mocca frappucino to go please"..."no, not a caramel latte"..."to GO"...and so on...I could have been speaking a different language for all the good I had getting through. The ambience can be great, but if the staff can't *listen* and come up with the goods when you're in a hurry, then all the comfy sofas in the world won't make a difference.

  • Paul Williams (from Starbucks)

    Heath,

    Thank you for sharing your positive experience. I agree that the secret is providing what took place for you at each Starbucks location AND all the time. (Not easy, but worth striving for!)

    You mention the ambiance and comfort, but what about the service? Was that good as well?

    I'm glad you had a good experience. I'll be sure to pass your comments onto the folks here at Starbucks - they'll appreciate it.

    Paul Williams
    Customer Care
    Starbucks Coffee Company

  • Diane Rainey

    Starbucks is a consistent winner with me for customer service and overall satisfaction.

    In some retail environments lately, I have felt insulted. Most recently at Sears the Wayne, NJ location. I'm a last-hour shopper there, typically after getting my 7 year old daughter set with her nighly routine with her dad as I sneak off for an hour of quick shopping. At the store, I am treated like a second class shopper by a staff who clearly hate their jobs and have no interest in getting or maintaining my business.

    I have literally been told, when asking where a department was at 9:15, (this store closes at 9:30) Ma'am, we are closing in ten minutes. It was as if to say, get out now, I want to go home, I dont care if you are going to buy a $3.00 pair of socks or a $500 air conditioner. Additonally, in the shoe dept I asked the sales person if the sneaker I was looking at was available in my daughters size. He replied NO!! without looking in the back, grabbed the shoe out of my hand and continued straightening the shelves for closing.

    In fact, as i end this, I am reminded to send a letter off to the manager of this Sears location about his or her beligerant staff, ..and make sure I send a copy to corporate in Chicago as well.

    Thanks for a good story.
    Diane Rainey
    Bloomingdale, NJ