Starbucks has always said they’re in the “people business, serving coffee.” The Starbucks Experience is being in a place where you feel welcome. It’s getting that drink customized to your liking, hand-crafted by a proud barista, a comfy place to sit (if you wish to stay) in a pleasant atmosphere.
Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman and chief global strategist, is quoted in the book Emotional Branding by Marc Gobe, “It’s our partners (store employees) who pass on to customers their knowledge and passion about Starbucks. If we greet customers, exchange a few words with them and then custom-make a drink exactly to their taste, they will be eager to come back.”
In his book A New Brand World, Scott Bedbury also summarizes the importance of people connection “[Starbucks] could not have gotten there if the Starbucks hourly employees had not known the value of delivering something more rewarding than just a cup of coffee.”
Someone could eventually develop a vending machine that would produce a great latte, but that wouldn’t be as appealing as going to your favorite cafe where you can customize your beverage to the nth degree. Or linger and chat with a friend. And, in the very same space, visit if you want to be with others OR visit if you want to be alone.