I enjoyed this blog post from Metrocurean (H/T Dappled Things for the link).
The sense of community is what I like it for - well, the coffee, pastries, and now lunch, of course - but I like being able to hang out with my notebook and a book, sipping coffee, and just being with others in a very comfortable setting - meaning that what we have in common is the location, and we're all there for the same thing.
It's very uniting, actually. People gather to sip coffee. There may be discussions, but the real issues center around whether or not to have a maple oat-nut scone, and is there a couch available. It is a comfortable place, no matter what one's mental furniture.
Key moments of my life have taken place in Starbucks. I have done some of my absolute best writing in one of their more atmospheric shops close by. Many years ago, a dear one's new job overseas was discussed at some length. When my best female friend was leaving to live in another state, the last evening we spent together in this state ended up at Starbucks. Treasured memories. There are few commercial venues which leave one with that kind of feeling, it seems.
However, as pleasant as the ambience is, I would not go if it weren't for their excellent coffee and tea, and the delicious little noshes one can buy, and the music.
I can do so much of that for myself at home - coffee, tea, scrumptious snacks, music, reading, writing, all of it - yet I continue to go out of my way to visit Starbucks at intervals. That is the incontrovertible proof that their formula is successful. I don't know how they express it within their corporate culture, but whatever it is, it's the "recipe for Coke" for their business. So long as I, a frugal, home-loving hobbity sort, will freely and willingly and gladly plunk down some dollars to go sit in their store and sip coffee when I could brew it myself at home, that company will thrive.