Cafe Service Experience Reflection

I spent some time in the Forbes and Craig Starbucks, observing the service experience.

I visited at around 5pm on Wednesday, and there were about 5 employees working, which seemed like a lot of people to have behind the counter. There were two registers, but it wasn’t that busy so only one was open. There was usually also only one barista. The other employees seemed to be busy restocking items, cleaning, or stepping in when extra help was needed.

Every Starbucks tends to have pretty good flow, and this one is no exception. Customers entering the cafe seemed to know where to line up, and mostly followed the same flow in and out of the shop. My guess is that most were familiar with this location. And interesting feature was the two doors, but the one near the pick up area was used maybe once when I was there. Perhaps it was meant to be an “exit” door, and maybe it serves that function during busier hours, but it seemed to be unnecessary during my observations.

I sketched out the layout of the starbucks, with rough approximations of seating areas. The orange represents flow of people.

Something that always gets mentioned when we talk about Starbucks is the name on the cup — it’s that bit of personalization that makes the whole process that much more human. Indeed, there were bits of the human touch around this location: the handwritten signs created a more local atmosphere, in contrast to the generic Starbucks franchise look. The moments where the cashier takes your name and when the barista calls out your name or your drink are both major touch points that make the service much more personal and appealing.

The other part of the service is to provide a location for people to gather and interact, directly or indirectly. There are plenty of tables, but there is also bar-like seating that facilitates individual customers looking for a place to work. Almost all of the seats were filled; maybe only 8 of the ~28 seats were vacant. The sound of vibrant conversations overwhelmed the mellow background music — this is not a quiet environment.

I had never noticed the door into the back area for the employees before, and during lulls where there was nobody in line, the workers all gathered behind the bakery display near that door. I suspect that the area behind the espresso machines is more work associated, and might even operate as a sort of stage where customers can see their drinks being prepared, thus eliminating it as a kind of hangout zone.

I think it’s interesting how the cashiers are trained to say “what can I get started for you today?” Not sure why that is, but it’s definitely an intentional script because I heard multiple employees use it.

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