Starbucks has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons, a victim of corporate-think and the problems of scale, although there has been hope in the return of Howard Schultz, the founder and former CEO.
In New York, at least, the Starbucks are dirty, nasty, and cramped. I can’t imagine spending any time in them (although I confess that I do like the older one in Penn Station because it is so unlike the rest of the terminal). But let’s face it, not only is the experience so-so, but the coffee is horrible. So I run into Dunkin Donuts or Au Bon Pain, either of which actually knows how to make a better brew and run, either back on the street or back to the studio or studio-x. Granted, Starbucks breakfast sandwiches (especially the peppered bacon one) and donuts are fantastic.
Still, the fall of Starbucks demonstrates two things to me. First, they didn’t get Wi-Fi. This had the ability to lure people in, but nobody wants to pay for something they already pay for at home or get for free elsewhere. Second, they got lazy about the Starbucks experience. People wanted a generic non-place that they could use as a base or resting-point while out and about. See what Anne Friedberg and I wrote about here. Dirty, nasty, and cramped doesn’t make it.
I’ve spent some time this month going over the site and fixing various dead links and so on, things that haven’t worked since the move to Dreamhost last year. In doing so, I ran across the 243-page Starbucks project that a group of my students did years ago. If the condition has changed for Starbucks, the Starbucks books is still a model of research in the studio.