This morning, comedian Andy Borowitz tweeted that, “In honor of National Coffee Day, Starbucks is doing a special promotion where they try to get your order right.” You know you’ve made it when you’re the subject of a joke read by over 30,000 people.

Starbucks, the most-recognized coffee chain in the U.S., posted record profits earlier this year and is regularly one of the top corporate players in social media, with over 10 million Facebook fans.

While there are plenty of business owners who dislike competing with Starbucks and reject their target market as “new espresso drinkers” who have yet to embrace true coffee, there’s also a lot to learn, business-wise, from the Starbucks model:

  1. They gave customers what they didn’t yet know they wanted.
  2. They began in a place with a natural market, and replicated their success slowly through careful franchising and marketing.
  3. They chose their partners wisely. Their affiliation with Barnes & Noble did much to solidify the brand image of both chains.
  4. They responded to customer demand. While many of us are baffled to see a Starbucks on 2 or even 3 corners of the same intersection, the choice is not haphazard. Starbucks clustered stores for customer convenience, reducing lines and wait times so that the “affordable luxury” they offered wouldn’t become too expensive in customer time.

Our own Tim Berry applauded the main points of Starbucks’ founder Howard Behar’s book a couple of years ago, an awfully humanistic agenda for an international franchise. The summary he links to includes items such as Do It Because It’s Right, Not Because It’s Right for Your Resume, Care Like You Mean It, and We Are Human Beings First.

So, what’s your favorite coffee shop? And is it the coffee, or the attitude?

Sara Prentice Manela