Tucked in a Soho sidestreet opposite theatrical staple The Mousetrap, Starbucks’ new concept store is place for the coffee chain to experiment with a higher end, more personalised experience.
The London store aims to be you’d start a date or meet a friend, rather than sit all day designing on a MacBook Pro wearing oversized headphones. Its aesthetics are more in line with a high-end independent coffeeshop than the functional feel of most Starbucks – though there’s tech underpinning everything in the store from ordering to projected visuals that give the same impression of seamless efficiency as visiting the Apple Store down the road in Covent Garden.
And then there’s the product itself – where there’s a much wider range of coffees and food – plus alcohol for the first time in the UK (including a rather tasty pale ale from Hackney brewery Five Points).
For the customers, the most apparent difference from your average Starbucks is the absence of the queue. The company imagines that those just after a takeaway jolt will use a smartphone app to pre-order their brew then pop in to collect and depart in a jiffy – though whether the British public will eschew their natural tendency to queue remains to be seen. Those who want to ‘drink in’ get waiter-service by knowledgeable staff who take orders and dispense advice over which micro-brew (aka small-batch) coffee you should try.