Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, is widely credited with the ‘third place’ insight. In fact, I quote,
“If home is the primary or ‘first’ place where a person connects with others, and if work is a ‘second place’, then a public space such as a coffee house is…. a ‘third place’. A social yet personal environment between one’s house and job, where people can connect with others and reconnect with themselves. From the beginning Starbucks set out to provide just such an invaluable opportunity”
I don’t have a beef with Starbucks. Many do, either because of their alleged tax cleverness, or due to their ubiquity. But living outside London, they pop up less frequently and are often better quality. There’s a drive through not far from me which is excellent – the staff clearly value their jobs, love what they do and compared with Welcome Break or Road Chef, it’s a beacon of quality on the road.
Brand consistency equals reliability, both a blessing and a curse (if you don’t live up to expectations). That’s why I like independent coffee shops. Oh, of course, many just get it wrong but when you find the opposite, someone who nails the ambience, the drinks and the food, they can’t be beaten. On my Ikonic Birmingham trip I discovered Faculty, nestled somewhat gloomily, in the Piccadilly Arcade close to New Street station. Why Faculty? I’m not sure. It’s too small to study there for a prolonged period of time and there don’t be seem to be Professors professorially conspiring around the eclectic collection of tables between lectures either. But there was a Chemistry Lab vibe hunkering down around a recycle and reuse ethic. I’m not sure the counter was made from old Chemistry classroom benches but it felt like (in a good way). The cakes most certainly weren’t though. The peanut butter brownie I had was from the grave: it was simply to die for. And the milk for the coffee in mini-urns was a nice touch. Next step: heat coffee for drip method with Bunsen Burners. Note to self.