Starbucks in Durham has played a big part in that change of direction, and my recent overseas adventure has allowed me to appreciate the chain and its ‘third place’ philosophy.
Home and work, and Starbucks somewhere in between, as the third place. Comfy chairs and a bookshelf of novels to help you feel relaxed and at home, and tables, wall sockets and free WiFi so that you can do all the work you need. That’s their plan, and I do think it’s working (mostly).
Obviously Starbucks is a global chain, but to fit in with their third-place philosophy they also have the ‘It’s Personal’ refrain. They have a familiar, set menu across the world, and yet, they ask you for your name and call you by it (as well as writing it on your cup, with their own special attempt at spelling it).
Newcastle is generally not good at the Starbucks thing. The store I visit most often is lacking in the home-comfort feel and is too noisy to get any work done, they suck at making a Flat White, and when they call me by my name it just feels weird.
But the mystery trip sealed the deal for me; there’s just something about having a recognisable menu and familiar surroundings when you’re faraway from home. And guaranteed air-conditioning when it’s 45 degrees outside doesn’t hurt either.
In summary: getting sucked in by the brand.