Advantages Best customer service going
Disadvantages Pricey, globalised
|Standard of Menu|
|Standard of Service|
I am writing this on my palmtop (see my convenient Psion Series 5 review) in Starbucks at 7.30 in the morning. So if I can't convey the atmosphere under these circumstances, there isn't much hope for me is there . . . Prices added 19/11/2001.Nitty Gritty
Starbucks is an enormous American chain of coffee shops. As such they are the target of anti-globalisation campaigns, which may or may not be just. They aren't a restaurant chain, so this category is slightly misleading, but they do sell food. Prices are high. Quality is good, but not as it might be for the prices which are driven, I believe, by popularity. Why is Starbucks so popular ? Because of the service. Purely and simply, they give the best customer service on the block.So a gap eyed pean to Starbucks then ?
My experience of Starbucks is that you can sit in peace with a book for an impossibly long time over a single expresso and not be bothered by anyone. I also like to get to work early, and Starbucks earlier. The one in Liverpool used to open at 6.30 and I arrived with the paper-man five minutes later.Describe the atmosphere ?
I promised to describe the atmosphere. Silly me. Well around me is a room filled with comfy chairs in two's and threes, with occasional long, well lit tables that you can stretch a paper out on, or lay a laptop on in comfort. The walls are earth toned with designer graphics dotted around. There is also an art display - today it's a set of photographs. The room is comfortably lit and warm, even though it is freezing outside. The air is filled with the smell of coffee (no really ? Yeah) and muffins. It isn't too noisy at the moment, though it can be, and soft rock is playing. I don't know who picks the music, sometimes it can be bad, usually its good, sometimes it's arresting - I first heard The Light by David Gray here and had to go and buy it right then but the record shop wasn't open. (There is a review of that too by the way . . .).Many Starbucks have a feature somewhere, like a nice fireplace. Most have a super comfy leather chair somewhere, but you have to get their early. A lot of branches have a hideaway too. An upstairs or a basement which isn't always obvious. Here you will find regulars, some of whom will not have left for days.
So what's on offer ?
Food. Starbucks do sandwiches which are big and too full of rabbit food for me (£2.95+), pannini (£3.50+), muffins ($1.60) which usually come in a low and high fat version for each. There are also bagels - not toasted saddly - granola bars which are a kind of super-flapjack (£1.40) and a scary range of cakes which I get fatter just looking at (£2.75+).
The service is usually excellent, even at peak times. The counter is designed to be fast and efficient, with a barrista making your coffee as you pay. In theory any way. The staff are almost always friendly, welcoming and there does seem to be a low turnover. The same faces turn up time and time again. It is easy to become a regular. The service is never pushy and if there is a problem, it is always corrected immediately. For me, the highpoint was a barrista changing my coffee without being asked because she had given me caff instead of decaff. She even remembered what I sprinkled on top. The low point was being short changed by a sly, smiling newbie who, I notice, didn't last two days.
Starbucks may be named after Starbuck, the pacifist Christian who was Ahab's near nemesis in Moby Dick or it might be after a 70's Sci-Fi character. It features heavily in Austin Powers. Starbucks own all their own branches, no franchises. Some branches give away coffee grounds for your compost heap.website: www.starbucks.com
The Great White Whale is me, in case you were wondering, and its a literary allusion, geddit . . . oh well.
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