In my hometown of Melbourne, Australia, Starbucks is a joke. By the time the chain tried to properly expand in the city, there was already a resilient community of local roasters and cafes in place, consumers who weren’t really interested, and that was the end of that.
It’s a different story in America. Compared to ol’ trusty diner drip, it was always percieved as a higher quality/higher status option. Personally, I think most drip coffee, is a tastier, healthier option than 90% of a Starbucks menu, but that’s another story.
In the bubble of Manhattan, I’ve noticed Starbucks plays a different role. Their stores blanket the island. One will often find themselves closer to a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate than a subway entrance. They are everywhere.
Inside, they are much bigger than your ‘boutique cafe’, probably because they can afford the rent, and will have many places to sit, charge your phone and use their wifi, or restrooms. I’ve found the service to be consistently good, and the coffee (my pick is the doppio machiato) always tastes the same (fine), and is a few bucks cheaper than anywhere else. Stumptown for example, is about $5 including tip for the same drink.
A Starbucks can accommodate hundreds of different needs and situations all at once. I’ve had job interviews, accepted job offers, conducted user interviews, read books, and been sheltered in thunderstorms. And I’m hardly ever there! I’m sure they rival wework in terms of deals made, and new businesses launched from inside their walls.
Maybe it’s a different story outside the bubble, (although my favourite location is in central London) but I’ll stick my hand up in support of Schultz and his empire of frappuccinos. I owe ’em that.