Saturday, May 21, 2005 starbucks density and beyond!

I have to admit... Sometimes, I go to Starbucks. While I regularly get my beans/drinks from a local roaster/cafe chain here (which makes, swear, some of the best damn coffee I've ever had anywhere -- the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, particularly)'s not across the street from my building. And Starbucks is. So for an afternoon break, it's on my list of places to obtain coffee, as a break from the in-building coffee cart.

And when taken into consideration as an individual coffee shop, Starbucks satisfies my occasional craving for a smoky, charred-tasting cup of coffee, and they make pretty good espresso drinks. There's nothing wrong in that, right?


*ducking airborne coffee cups*

(Well, OK, I don't like it when they play coy and "correct" my vocabulary, as in:
"I'd like a medium skim latte please!"
"One GRAAAAANDE no-fat latte?"
And they always *ask* like they don't know what I'm talking about. C'mon, now.)

But yes, as previously alluded to some time ago, I do hate hate hate hate Starbucks when they totally overwhelm the landscape. Who wants to drink the same damn coffee, all the damn time? I do not. Additionally, it makes for ridiculous conversation!

"I'll meet you at the Union Square Starbucks!"
"On the northeast corner, or the northwest corner, or the southeast corner, or on that pointy corner where there are the two Starbuckses kinda facing each other, the one on the left or the right?"

And, I don't know how to pluralize Starbucks.(es? no es?)

So, with that experience in mind, that's why I'm a little bit in love with, a website that compiles a list of independent cafes in a five mile-radius of your zip-code, and likewise shows your starbucks density alongside it.

I always thought that Nashville had a good selection of cafes in contrast to the number of Starbucks, and now, proof! See?

Their numbers are a little bit off (some duplicate entries, for example) but still cool, and worth playing with. For instance, I also started plotting in zip codes of places I've lived, places I've visted... and just random places (university areas, mostly) to see how they stack up coffee-wise. I'm thinking that it'd be neat if delocator eventually branched out to include ratios, which would be an interesting analysis of the coffee-scape. Sort of like, er, this:

(*lacks scientifically sound statistical analysis)

(North Carolina, you are ungraphable! ... can it be true? No Starbucks?!?!?)

Anyway, just thought I'd share... and I'm going back to this, uhm, data I'm analyzing here.


Anonymous Michelle said...

Oh the things we come up with the avoid the things we *should* be doing. :) As long as we are on the subject of coffee...I'm damn excited that Portland Brew has returned to Murphy Road. Next door to Grand Cru...uppers and downers in the same parking lot, oh my!

Saturday, May 21, 2005 2:31:00 PM  
Blogger Jerry said...

When I used to travel in Kentucky I was amazed that there were no starbucks. I need to go to this site to see if they do Europe yet. Cuz there's too many starbucks already in BCN (and their coffee is three to four TIMES as expensive as the local, perfectly good stuff). But it is the ONLY place you can get a true ice coffee to-go with a straw. So they've cornered that market.

Monday, May 23, 2005 6:28:00 AM  
Blogger hermance said...

Nicole, we do have some Starbucks in NC, but not with much density. For example, there's only one in Chapel Hill, and of course there are zero in Durham. I think there are a handful in Raleigh, and I'm sure more than handful in Charlotte. So I guess the entire state has about 20. I think Starbucks is very devoted to the urban/suburban demographic and is making a small push toward exurban. Most of this state (and places like Kentucky) don't have spaces that fit into those categories. Not that Louisville isn't a legitimate city--I love it--but it's just a bit too small, I suspect, to be worth Starbucks trying to break into it. And, I'm guessing, it doesn't fit into the image that Starbucks still wants to maintain.

Incidentally, I'm wondering how their longer term branding strategy is going. A few years ago, they rolled out the concept of Starbucks that you could eat in, that encouraged you to hang out. Then, they seemed to move away from that model and basically admitted they were following the classic McDonald's marketing strategy: consistency. The idea that you could go to any Starbucks and know what you're going to get. It sounds crazy, but in a world when people travel so much, I value having a consistent option. At home, I go to the local places, and when I can find local places on the road, I try them too. But I'd go to a Starbucks over a gas station almost any day, and I'm wondering if they are ever going to give up their urban hipster image and bank on that motivation entirely.

Monday, May 23, 2005 8:54:00 AM  
Blogger Nicole said...

M: Like the sigmaplot window in the background? I'm yet to go to the Brew or the Cru -- will have to check 'em out.

J: Funny how a concept as simple as iced beverages can be a selling point. Starbucks, in general, has done a good job of cornering the market of coffee for people who don't actually like coffee. Besides frappacinos, I noticed something described as "drinking chocolate" on their menu, and I know that their caramel macchiato is something along the same lines of a frou-frou frappy-monstronsity, because now when I order a macchiato (meaning, its more common definiton, an espresso marked with foam) non-SB baristas have to make sure I want a real macchiato, as opposed to whatever SB is making.

E: Maybe they're trying to combine mcdonald's with hipster (McHipster?) considering their recent moves in music sales -- exclusive CDs, digital download shops, etc. -- which you've probably read about...

Monday, May 23, 2005 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

E, again: Thinking about the Starbucks music thing reminded me of this commentary about the *$/Alanis issue:

Thought you might find it interesting if ya haven't read about this yet.

Monday, May 23, 2005 1:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Muffy Wong said...

I like Starbucks. Sure their names are pretentious but whatever, it tastes good. Their fancy coffee beverages anyway. For actual coffee I go elsewhere to avoid the acidity and um, mudbutt flavor.

Portland Brew has great beans.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 12:13:00 PM  

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