by Sandy Ikeda
Another thing Jenny has pointed out is that while independent coffeehouses are generally crammed with tables, Starbucks stores often look like they could easily accommodate many more than they do. If that’s true, I’m not sure why. Some possibilities:
1. Lower store-specific loyalty? Starbucks’s brand-loyalty is pretty strong, but its store-specific loyalty is probably lower than any given independent shop’s. If an independent’s customers tend to be repeaters, they are more likely to be local and a higher percentage of them will sit compared to a Starbucks.
2. In a similar vein, if people choose Starbucks because it lowers search costs (there’s one right across the street from my preferred coffeehouse), but this suggests that a higher proportion of its customers will be visitors/tourists in a greater hurry and who will tend not to sit (although of course having to spend less time searching means they can spend more time sitting, but I don’t think this is significant). Of course, that could mean that a Starbucks can be smaller than an independent on average. I don’t think that’s true; on average Starbucks stores appear to be much larger.
3. Being larger, most Starbucks-type chains/franchises use floor space to sell items other than coffee and pastry – e.g., mugs, coffeemakers and coffee paraphernalia , CDs – while independents tend not to. So that makes the formers’ cost of adding another table higher. Perhaps independents don’t sell other stuff too because they have higher costs of acquiring those supplies because of smaller staffs, skill sets, or supply networks.
I know there are a lot of “ifs” and “mays” in all this, but it does look like there are two main business models working here.
One of the implications of my previous Coffeehouse Culture post may be that coffeehouses are counter-cyclical. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however, as Starbucks is continuing with its plans to downsize. See here for example.