Sunday, 07 December 2008

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Community venues: a multinational model? I'm quite interested in Starbucks as a social phenomenon, but I'm always puzzled as to why they claim an interest in coffee. Take this, the company's response to enforcement action by Brighton & Hove City Council: 'We believe that our coffee houses make positive contributions to their local areas and, in particular, Starbucks store on St James’s Street has helped its community by creating around 14 new jobs and by providing a relaxing and safe environment for customers to enjoy great tasting coffee.' All very well until the last few words, slurring their well-earned reputation as a cafe for people who don't like coffee. Not long ago I had a meeting in a Starbucks and, not wishing to make the classic mistake, I ordered tea. Oh dear. In future if nomadic needs lead me into one of their places, I'll drink from my own bottle of water. If challenged by the staff I will ask eagerly when they expect to be selling something palatable. In the meantime, here's a challenge for their Social Responsibility Division: could Starbucks accept its own limitations and develop the model of local community hub around the things they seem to be good at? - seats, space, high street accessibility, wifi, and being private in a public place. I know libraries got there already but they're not hogging the template, and they depend on public funding. A multinational model of a community venue, how about it? Is there a commercial (or social entrepreneurial) model there (minus that strange brown water)?

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