Starbucks, “I will have a virtual office with my tall coffee please.”


It’s 6:30 a.m. and you are on your way to work, but you need your coffee pick-me-up from the local Starbucks in your work area. As usual the line snakes out the door from the cashier to the entrance. The seating areas are usually empty at this time, but there is a group of “youngish” people huddled in a corner on their computers, tablets or using the slice bread size smart-phones, and feverishly typing, reading, and filled with concentration on their task at hand.

This is the Starbucks of the future whether regular customers, new customers want to accept or adapt to it like a new flavored coffee. The international coffee chain was not like this before. With the dawn of the 21st century a “day at the office” has transformed itself into a virtual office with the coffee chain as the impromptu space.

A Starbucks virtual office is made up of a fully functioning table, working electrical outlet, a friendly barista, access to a bathroom, all of the aforementioned electrical devices; the freelance writer/reporter, the under-grad or grad student, older or retired professionals, small business owners, job recruiters, job interviewers, job seekers, people in between jobs, and free internet access.


Starbucks – the 44 year old international coffee chain – is loved by most for its ambiance, delicious coffees, teas, and various frappuccinos. It used to be known for a place where people met and greeted friends, blind dates, where longtime friends caught up on last month’s activities, the odd professional, and students studying on a caffeine based plan.

Now, the millennials, the baby-boomer generation, and those within and beyond the 18-49 age demographic are using the global caffeine chain for more; this more includes business meetings, job and perspective college interviews, and for writing the next great American Fiction or Non-Fiction novel. It is this working professional generation that has caused the quiet local coffee shop to become a bustling place for people to “make business” and study.

But has the global chain changed with this ideology? Slightly. It has transformed most of their chains into a more modern and homely decor. The caffeine king has partnered with Google to bring free “Google Starbucks” WiFi to all of its customers. In some chains there is more seating, in others they have cleverly created small areas. And in some chains they are more electrical outlets.

The history and main goal of Starbucks has changed since its beginnings in Seattle, Washington. The world’s largest coffee chain started in 1971, but within almost two decades the company grew rapidly. Between 1987 and 2007 the coffee giant opened two stores a day. In 1996, the chain opened its first store outside the U.S. and Canada in Tokyo, Japan. By 2009, they had opened 900 stores in the U.S.

To date, Starbucks has over 20,000 stores in 64 countries and territories, which includes over 12,000 in the U.S., with 1,716  stores in China, 1,330 stores in Canada; in Japan they are 1,079 stores, and in the U.K. they have 808 stores. The coffee giant however has had its troubling years in 2008 and 2009.

With the amount of stores that Starbucks has there is a growing caffeine fix, and this means more people are flocking to the chain. More customers means more demands on the stores, and therefore more traffic means more people wanting to utilize their services and all it offers.

With this generation of customers that want a virtual space with their latte, it also means there is competition between those who want to drink coffee, have discourse, etc. versus those who are making business at Starbucks outlets. How does one manage it?

Better still, how does Starbucks even compensate for this unknown battle? They don’t. On the Starbucks Facebook page they are very few images of people solely on their computers or tablets. They are however more images of people: families, couples, and friends drinking various coffee blends.

In other words, the coffee giant is still targeting and encouraging the other group to enjoy, meet and greet, and have an enjoyable “cup of joe.” But they are not whipping up the professionals to have their coffee and virtual office space too.

Starbucks has been able to maintain and successfully hold on to its main purpose: that is provide a space for people to have and enjoy coffee with friends, etc. The new virtual office space is only an annex that helps people like the budding professionals and grad students to do business and study respectively.

The real winner is…everyone, more so Starbucks. A great deal of other coffee outlets offer the same services, free WiFi, with a nice ambiance, and great seating areas, but some don’t offer great tasting coffee and only fair WiFi.

One can have his or her virtual office space with their coffee at any international chain that is Starbucks.


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