Masquerade. Image credit:The Telegraph
When a chain restaurant drastically changes appearance to follow the "go local" trend, is it a masquerade, or a sign of progress? See what you think. "De-branding" -- that is, when a big corporation masquerades as a local business or features locally grown foods -- has become a trend among large food retailers such as Coca Cola and McDonalds. The coffee giant Starbucks is making a concerted effort at pseudo-localization, indicates Priyamvada Gopal, in her recent Guardian article, The Stealth of Starbucks. And according to the Telegraph, Starbucks' Seattle-based experiment with de-branding is an effort to transform at least three locations into cafes with "community personality." The cafes "will also sell alcohol and will feature poetry readings and live music, as well as selling the company's world-famous coffees," according to the article.Seattle Times' Melissa Allen describes the rather hippie-esque decor Starbucks will use in these test locations:
The ubiquitous coffee-shop giant is dropping the household name from its 15th Avenue East store on Capitol Hill, a shop that was slated to close at one point last year but is being remodeled in Starbucks' new rustic, eco-friendly style.
It will open next week, the first of at least three remodeled Seattle-area stores that will bear the names of their neighborhoods rather than the 16,000-store chain to which they belong. Names and locations for the other two shops have not been finalized. If the pilot goes well in Seattle, it could move to other markets.
Maybe we can see this experiment as an acknowledgment that, in some locales at least, folks deserve what they had before Starbucks drove a privately held store out.
Poetry readings indeed. What constitutes local, anyhow?
Coffee beans will never be locally grown in the USA; only locally-roasted at best. If Starbucks just gives the new 'neighborhood' store managers the latitude to fresh-roast and to favor non-disposable cups, for example, then it's a fine devolution from cookie-cutter sameness.
Perhaps, it was US politicians who started the trend of "de-branding," with their claims of being from "outside the Beltway," and running campaigns based on small-town values. Hence, the choice of post photo - symbolizing the politician who recently took pseudo-local to its highest expression--the majority of Alaska's revenue stream comes from levies on multi-national oil companies.
Disclosure: I prefer Starbucks when I am on the road. Much superior to the distillate swill that generally passed for coffee in the roadside and small town cafes I grew up with.