How to lose to Starbucks

July 12, 2006 - Get free updates of new posts here

I was waiting for a meeting today at Dana Street Roasting Company and asked the coffee maker if they had wifi. To my luck they did and it was free. Woot, woot, now I can kill 15 minutes with reading news before the meeting. Unfortunately, the guy told me that power was not free and no power plugs were available.


Are you freaking kidding me? It seems like they are trying to not please customers and keep people from drinking coffee, chatting and spending more money in their store. Many mom and pops complain about the dominance of Starbucks so here is what they should do:

  • Target a particular market of people. They may not want to provide free wifi but do it if you want those people visting your store. Create an atmosphere for business meetings if that’s what you want or create ways where youth can socialize and have a place to chill.
  • Make it Unique. Make it Bold. Make it Sassy. Everyone loves Starbucks ambience for some reason. And yes I am at a Starbucks now since they have power outlets;) Anyways, put cool paintings on the wall, use stools, get old school desks or anything that will stand out.
  • Provide amazing service. This is the easiest one to do but so many stores neglect this. Remember customer’s favorite drinks, say their names when they order, create a bulletin board of the top drinkers, have a drink of the month club and get involved with them.
  • Create a community.Whatever you tailor your place for, create events for people to come back and participate in. For a business focus, work with the chamber of commerce to hold meetings there; for music, provide weekly ecletic concerts; for students, give away free coffee while staying open late during finals week.
  • Quality, I believe is hard to differentiate enough against other coffee houses. Starbucks has the advantage that people know what to expect when they go into one. So trying to say you are better won’t work. What might is creating unique drinks or focusing only on one type. For example you become the Latte house and only serve those types. Where do think people will go for Lattes?

Starbucks isn’t going anyway anytime soon so I hope Dana does something different. And to my avid readers, make sure to always drink a Chai Tea Latte:)

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8 responses to “How to lose to Starbucks

  1. Shivani Reply

    Going along with the idea of knowing what to expect at Starbucks, I think it’s also important to note that the drinks are ALWAYS made the same at a Starbucks. I’ve found that it’s very rare that a drink tastes different at a Starbucks regardless of the store’s location or the person who makes it…but if you go to other coffee shops you always have to find that one person that makes the drink they way you want it.

  2. Devin Reply

    Just to argue, from their perspective, you don’t need power in order to “drink coffee, chat and spend more money.” They only need it if over employed yopos want to plop down in the same place for many hours… looks like you weren’t the market, buddy. 🙁

  3. joe Reply

    shivani i think you nailed one of the key elements regarding big companies like starbucks and mcdonalds, etc. : consistency. people like knowing what to expect. otherwise i agree with devin; looks like you weren’t the market.

  4. Gabe Reply

    There is something of a backlash against wifi in coffee shops, and I can’t exactly blame them. People spend $2 and stay 4 hours, occupying a table all by themselves. I agree though, if you’re going to do wifi, do it right. For instance, don’t set up a network that excludes Mac users, especially if you’re in San Francisco. This means you, Teavana.

    I have to say, though, that Starbucks frequently has too few outlets, and impractically located ones at that. Plus, T-Mobile Hotspot is mega weak.

    Everyone I’ve known who traveled to Central or South America came back raving about the coffee. Apparently, the basic brew down there is amazing. I can’t find anything but watery bilge in this city. All our coffee is foreign anyway, so why can’t we get the good stuff here?

    Another note to independent coffee shops: the ubiquity of Starbucks’ background music does not mean that your shop should sound like a hip-hop nightclub. This is not competing. It’s hurting your customers’ ears.

  5. Kira Reply

    The little Turkish cafe around the corner from us definitely got a lot of business a few weeks ago when the garbage truck got caught on an overhead cable and everybody in our apartment complex was without internet for several days. They have wifi and outlets, and a nice outside porch. I think the problem for a lot of mom and pops is that they were built before laptops were common, and the store wasn’t built with too many outlets in the common area that aren’t already powering lamps or something. So it would probably cost a fortune to do that. Plus, you pay a flat monthly rate for wifi, but the more power people use, the more you pay.

    I think most people would be willing to pay $1 an hour for power or something though, that’s all it would cost them.

  6. Tim Grahl Reply

    First off… independent coffee shops are a bitch to make a profit off of no matter what you do. But that’s a different topic…

    I do agree that independent shops often make extremely dumb business decisions. Often people seem more interested in the idea of running their own business and like to ignore the nitty-gritty crappy parts of running your own business. Like being open on holidays and past 6pm.

    And this goes for a lot of shops outside of just coffee shops. People need to weigh all the consequences of running their own biz before they take out a loan and jump in.

  7. Jhon F Harrison Reply

    the trick to getting good coffee at home is a excellent coffee machine. i have a Saeco brand Espresso maker, and it makes very good tasting coffee. also grinding the beans yourself just before you make it enhances the taste as well 🙂