Americans really love their coffee but I was surprised to learn that coffee consumption is about half of what it was 50 years ago. But the visibility of coffee shops seem at such an all time high that it has become part of pop culture to joke that Starbucks is opening everywhere from taking over kids closets to opening in someone’s kitchen.
So who is better? Obviously Pouregon is here to promote the locally owned shops so I lean that way. I asked someone I know who referenced Starbucks if he tries any local places. He mentioned that he loves Starbucks, he was previously a manager, and that other shops weren’t as good and the service stinks. He elaborated that you get snobby or complacent service from most other places, and then still wait forever. To be honest though I don’t find Starbucks to be blazing fast like I hear from some but perception is everything.
He has a point. I have been around small businesses all of my life and it is tough to be a good manager. Between hiring, training, and motivating their are a lot of trap doors to fall through for a business owner who has more passion than experience. And the owner can’t do it all. Much like artists often fail to promote or run their passion as a profitable business, the independent shop owner often fails too as statistics show. Franchises have a much better success rate because the support and structure is there.
While writing up the posts for Pouregon I often look at the reviews and the most consistent thing I find is a complaint about service. While you may want to spend 10 minutes with each person to make them your close friend, there are quite a few people who just want the coffee too. It’s hard to balance but just look at the competition.
What’s interesting, according to an article that is behind the pay wall of the Wall Street Journal, is that quite often when Starbucks moves in to an area some local shops actually increase their business when they thought they would perish. People are awakened to the idea of a coffee shop and then they explore. There was one coffee shop that would move to wherever a new Starbucks opened in his area because he was always successful. Think about the car dealers you see lined up on a street. They feed off each other.
The battle may come down to customer service and location. Some of the independent shops have out of the way locations because it’s what they can afford like many small businesses. Obviously location and ease of access can help and I already talked about customer service.
As much as I would like this post to declare a winner it’s really about the battle for the mind and attention of the coffee drinker. I have shown the spotlight on some great and popular coffee shops; Insomnia Coffee Company had one of their clients get married there. The independent coffee shop has an uphill battle to win the mind of someone who is a Starbucks fan but they have too take advantage every time a new coffee drinker walks in the door to wow them with good and quick service.
Photo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/gribanov