I don't end up watching TV much these days, between my dissertation work and my--well, not owning a TV. So I was startled to catch up with some of the rebranding which our various commercial sponsors are now interested in.
Quite a while ago, Starbucks started to try to brand itself as a "third place"--the evocative place for hanging out that we stay in after our work day has ended, but before we're ready to go home. Sort of a social place, to match the work and domestic aspects of our lives. This is the model of the British Pub, of course: and its what we strive for when we watch Cheers (set in a bar), or Friends (set in a large communal living room and a coffee shop). To some extent, it's even the third place featured in Seinfeld, when the group gathers at the local cafe to plan, talk, and run into strangers.
It makes sense for Starbucks to do so. They can seel a $2.50 cup of coffee, sure, but they slowly discovered that they had to sell a Starbucks lifestyle to go with it. Otherwise, you might pay $2.25 for the same cup from someone else. The Starbucks lifestyle, of course, means that you can sit down on a large comfy couch, read the Times, and meet interesting new people.
(When I first moved to Irvine, I was chatting with a friend. We met up for coffee at the local Starbucks, and he explained that this had once been his coffeeshop. But he met a girl there, and the relationship had eventually gone sour. And so he had to move to drinking at the other local coffeeshop. You know: as part of the relationship alimony settlement, she got the coffeeshop)
Update 2-28: It has been ever thus. The Economist compares today's coffeehouse to the coffeehouse of 1650.
Back to TV commercials. Denny's now seems to be advertising that they are " a good place to sit and eat." Their commercial isn't about convenience, or about being open at 3 in the morning, but about the sociability. I don't know if I buy it--is Denny's likely to hit Starbucks for a Grand Slam, by letting you buy a midafternoon burger and fries with the same enthusaism that you can get your cofeee?
Students seem to have a good knack for places that are good to sit and eat. Especially if it lets them gossip and work on homework at the same time. When I got to UCI, it had a nearby pricey coffee-shop, a pricey teashop, and a Denny's. The Denny's was almost always empty, at any hour; they closed down a few months after I got to town.
Of course, KFC is trying to convince you that they are "kitchen fresh." So we'll see where all that goes.February 26, 2004 10:17 AM | TrackBack | in Design