Blog Post 2: Starbucks morning rush hour

Starbucks floor plan



Starbucks has 2 entryways, one from the street and the other from a connected office building lobby. Customers enter the store and follow an unmarked path to the cash registers. If there’s a line, customers talk to each other, look at their phones, or look at the menu.

For regular orders, customers receive drinks at cash register and proceed to coffee bar, customer counter area, and/or exit the store. For custom orders, customers wait in front of counter (depicted by a “red cloud” on the drawing), often crowded and chaotic at peak times.

Waiting for drinks, customers look at their phones, talking with on another, watching staff prepare drinks, or talk with staff. One customer inquired about a colorful drink. A staff member complained about limited space in another store.

During rush hour, mood is upbeat and music is high tempo. Temperature inside is comfortable, mirroring outside mild summer weather. Lighting is bright and focused on counter areas.
As staff furiously prepares drinks in assembly line formation, most customers wait anxiously. Some customers inquire about drink orders. A couple staff members call out drink orders and thank customers (occasional by name). A few customers question drink orders or make additional requests. One customer complimented staff on announcing a long drink name. Some drinks are called, but not picked up.

As traffic slows, music tempo slows, atmosphere relaxes and staff attends to other functions. Customers remaining in the store sit and work on laptops, talk in groups, or make phone calls.

My comments:

Mariam Edwards –

Margaret Pickworth –

Jerry Leeson –

  1. Hi James, it seems like you spent a bit more than 30 minutes there :). Hope the coffee was good. I like the way that music was used to create an appropriate mood for the day. Also, your comments on what the staff were saying etc. It was a good reminder for me that observation is more than just using the eyes but the other senses too (sound, touch, taste, smell). Actually in the coffee shop the aromas of fresh coffee, cakes etc would have been interesting. I like your drawing but the text was upside down – is it possible to re-orient it?

    • Jerry,
      I can’t seem to figure out how to paste the image in here. I posted it on Flickr but I’m afraid that is upside down too. Want me to email you a copy?


  2. Hi Jim,
    People’s behaviour in coffee shops has really changed over the last few years with the introduction of the ‘smart phone’. As you observed people often spend the time waiting for a coffee checking out messages, apps or sites on their phone. I think companies are starting to tap into this behaviour with the introduction of QR codes and opportunity to comment on social media sites. The researchers and staff in these businesses need to involve these “diverse and multiple actors” in their design thinking and also the roles of objects like mobile technology (Kimbell,L. 2012).
    Kimbell, L. (2012). Rethinking design thinking: Part II. Design and Culture, 4(2), 129-148.

  3. Hey Jim,
    Really interesting look at a coffee shop. What I really liked was the intergration of music to create a different feeling to the place, which is an aspect of food venue design we often do not think about. It it is such an important design element and can impact of sales for a business.

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