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A human connection facilitated by coffee

Starbucks opened a new store in the mall of Hoog Catharijne in Utrecht. The store design hints to the local heritage, and the design matches the existing architecture, while retaining the unique Starbucks elements. In the first shops of Starbucks they chose a monotone storedesign, to be able to grow fast. And they did, but after a while the experience changed and in the meantime Starbucks lost its soul. CEO Howard Schultz returned to the company, restored this soul and changed ‘a Starbucks’ to ‘my Starbucks.

Customers must feel good

The shops of Starbucks serve as a communication platform by coffee. Ad de Hond, responsible for creative direction for store presentations in EMEA, tells Starbucks stands for a human connection facilitated by coffee. We do that through our passion for serving the highest quality, ethically sourced coffee, looking after our partners (employees), and engaging with our customers. Most importantly for my design team is our focus on creating what we call the ‘Third Place’, a place away from home or work.

Designers get inspired from the street, online and social media. The operations department also plays an important role, they see where people do or do not prefer to sit down.

Starbucks uses a skeleton and skin for its store design. The skeleton is always the same, like the brand, the logo, the service and the way the bar operates. "We want to be a resting point. People can chat at Starbucks or be online. "The skin can change, depending on the city, the building, the street and local coffee culture.”

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Local culture

They use the Catalog, which is a collection of options with furniture, materials, lighting and finishes, to decorate the store. But they are also free to collaborate with local designers. In the Netherlands Starbucks uses stools and lamps of Sjoerd Vroland and chairs of Kranen/Gille. “The combination of local designers and the Catalog makes it unique.”

According to De Hond, Starbucks tests a lot. "With everything we do, we want to change the status quo or challenge each other to do it differently."