I just saw this article on Yahoo! News and I think it’s obvious that Starbucks doesn’t “get it”. The article talks about various Starbucks locations in New York, that are covering up the AC outlets, so that people can’t stay there and utilize the Internet connection for extended periods of time.

When I say that they dont get it, I mean I don’t believe they understand their new role in the evolving business ecosystem. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed it lately, but there is an entire breed of business person that spends their days parked at Starbucks, using it as their office. They buy coffe and water and many times, lunch. I have no idea what the stats are but I know that at times in my career, I’ve been one of them. This is a sign of the times and is only going to increase. Individuals are their own business. They create business teams to execute based on the project needs and then disband them when the project is complete. (Kind of an amoebic business and this is one of the reasons personal brands are essential.) Instead of kicking people out, I believe Starbucks should embrace this new reality by creating a business membership program

A Starbucks membership program would:

  • Provide members with a feeling of exclusivity.
  • Generate reoccurring revenue from monthly fees. Business people will pay for a secure connection, where they can enter their passwords without worrying about being hacked and they will also pay for greater bandwidth.
  • Better chairs. Starbucks’ seats are really a form of torture and I love my new Incase, because I can use it as a seat cushion. This does raise the risk of alienating your standard user, but long-term, the business user is going to be prove more valuable AND it may motivate people to join. (I’d actually upgrade all the chairs.)
  • Access to fax machines and copiers for those dinosaurs that still use hardcopy.
  • Double points on Starbucks loyalty programs.
These things of course will increase operational overhead in the short-term, but business people are going to increasingly use these types of venues to office in. Just as Starbuck’s logo has evolved, their business needs to evolve.

The Starbucks office