Storytelling, Community And Going Green At Starbucks

Storytelling, Community And Going Green At Starbucks

Tim Pfeiffer, senior VP of Store Design talks to PSFK about the recent redesign of their Soho store.

Jamie Song
  • 18 june 2010

Starbucks has recently taken on a green initiative to redesign their stores while maintaining their unique charm. Tim Pfeiffer, Senior VP of Store Design, talked with PSFK to discuss his experience with the project and the future of retail.

What was the inspiration behind the redesign of the Soho store?

I think what’s most important about the specific site is the beautiful heritage of the architecture, obviously, of that neighborhood in Soho. How powerful that is, is just an inspiration point to launch from. We landed in that site 15 years ago, when a lot of the development that you see today wasn’t quite to that juncture. It became part of the fabric of Soho.

I had to look at the magnitude of our customer level that goes through that site, and the large variety of people that come to the site. But also, to make us relevant to the community as it has matured, and migrated and changed, certainly as the company has.

The store and the brand has a long history and unique charm. Over the years, how was has that evolved?

I think that the evolution really has been that we, once upon a time, just kind of put essentially a similar floor map of parts into our stores, and allowed the customers to take them, move them around. A little more eclectic space plan foundation. I think what we’ve recognized over years, as people migrated more towards the stores, its really their little daily community centers in a lot of ways. At the same time, we had the shift in what people did in our stores.

Pre-computers, it was more of a coffee, reading, kind of an environment. Lots of computer use. Meetings space was needed. We recognize that there are more people that would like to have a big comfy chair, so how do you actually start to design smaller footprint upholstered cafe seating, so that there’s more comfort at every opportunity, depending on what you’re coming into the store for.

Are there other design challenges that are exciting for you to tackle?

When I think about all of my favorite coffee shops all over the globe, and just coffee culture in general, it’s not so unlike your favorite bar with the favorite bartender in a small environment. You get the one on one sitting at a coffee bar in Milan or in Paris where you actually just… You walk in and you either stand at the coffee bar or you sit at the coffee bar. So a big focus for me was to reintroduce that.

So where we have that opportunity, I really want to reintroduce the nature of enjoying your fast espresso at the counter with your Barista, and out the door. Or the educational opportunity at that same point, having that choice and having again that kind of complexity reintroduced into our coffee.

How does an educational storytelling impact your design?

Probably one of the most exciting things was the opportunity that I had to go down to both Costa Rica and Guatemala, and go through several individual little growing regions within those two countries. And get out there into the fields, meet the farmers, see how it is, what the conditions are, and where they work. Most all coffee growing is on these very hilly sites, throughout the world. It was just an amazing opportunity to see our real engagement with those coffee growing regions, with the communities of people that provide that cherry through the system that lands in our cups that we’re serving out to the globe. It’s a big part of the heritage of what Starbucks has done over the last 40 years, bringing that piece of their community to ours. It’s great to have that opportunity to tell the tale today.

How do you balance that slowed, engaging experience when Starbucks has introduced mobile payments with iPhone apps and accelerating the efficiency rate.

There’s several things that that mobile piece can do, and they’re not always… It’s not always an ability to pay for your order. The phone app itself, it allows you to check your balance. It’s a connection point. You can recharge your card on your app. You can find locations for stores. There’s different kinds of coffee resource information that you can pull up off of that.

So it’s really a talking point, in a lot of ways. There’s the nutritional information, and suggestive pairings and other kind of promotional things. It’s an opportunity for us to non‑verbally communicate to our customer. At the same time, I don’t think that there is any piece of that that subjugates the one to one relationship, or our conversation that takes place at the point of order, or the point of hand out.

Thanks Tim!


+Environmental / Green
+experience design
+fashion / apparel
+Latin America

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