• Starbucks is popular because it provides a welcoming, ambient space to enjoy its drinks.
  • While comparatively expensive, Starbucks’ drinks offer affordable luxury from a coveted brand. 
  • The company’s strategic digital strategy, limited edition drinks, and app add to its allure.

It’s hard to believe, but coffee wasn’t a “thing” until Starbucks arrived on the scene.

Nowadays, every high street, shopping mall, and leisure space has multiple coffee outlets jostling for attention.

But somehow, despite its ridiculous prices, Starbucks always comes out on top.

Why Is Starbucks So Popular? (Even Though It’s Expensive?)

If you regularly gravitate toward Starbucks, it’s not by accident. The company knows exactly how to draw in business, and they do it exceedingly well.

Grab a coffee, settle in, and read on to find out how they do it.

10 reasons why Starbucks remains popular

There’s not one single thing that makes Starbucks so alluring. It’s a combination of many different things, so let’s go over each one of them.

1. The brand itself and its history

Starbucks originated in Seattle in 1971 as a coffee beans store. It wasn’t until 1987 that it transformed into a coffee house.

The company was a pioneer in creating a relaxed setting where one could enjoy a good cup of coffee.

Before that time, coffee was typically only served in diners and other eating establishments.

The coffeehouse concept proved immensely popular, and it wasn’t long before Starbucks expanded across the US and overseas.

Meanwhile, others noticed how well this concept worked and started opening their own brands of coffee shops and chains.

However, the Starbucks brand stuck fast, and no other coffee chain has managed to reach the same level of fame since.

According to Statista, in 2020, there were just over 37,000 coffee shops in the USA.

Finance Online states that 8,941 of those were Starbucks company-operated shops, with a further 6,387 licensed stores, making an incredible 15,327 shops in total. Starbucks is a big deal.

Today, Starbucks is still the world’s largest coffee chain, and fans remain steadfastly loyal to the brand.

Just like we immediately think of Google when we need to look up something online or the brand Kleenex when we need a tissue, we immediately think of Starbucks when someone mentions getting a coffee. It’s a household name.

2. The unique Starbucks look

Everything about a Starbucks shop has been meticulously planned to ensure an inviting, welcoming experience.

Other coffee shops have tried to emulate it but lack the finesse. Other coffee shops are certainly cheaper but haven’t even tried to create a beautiful space to enjoy their coffee (McDonald’s and their harsh strip lighting, anyone? No?)

The friendly staff is well trained to make everyone feel welcome. From that tired mother dragging three kids in tow to the city slicker who needs a caffeine fix and a place to plug in, everyone is greeted the same way.

That extra buck or two that you pay for your Starbucks is going toward the experience you get with your coffee.

Okay, so you may object to this if you only use Starbucks for take-out coffee, but I feel it’s worth it for the smooth and efficient service.

3. A touch of affordable luxury

Most people can’t afford a fancy sports car or to dine out in Michelin Star restaurants, but almost everyone can afford a coffee every now and then.

Popping into a Starbucks and treating yourself to a fancy coffee feels super indulgent, but it won’t make you go broke.

Starbucks matcha Frappuccino, ready to drink.
Starbucks matcha Frappuccino

You can buy one of Starbucks’ decadent coffee concoctions (cream too? Why not!), sink back into one of their big velvety armchairs, and take a well-deserved moment or two just for yourself.

Prefer take-out coffee? Well, carrying around a Starbucks cup is definitely seen as a statement symbol. Celebrities do it, but so can you!

4. Familiar consistency

Step into any Starbucks in any corner of the world, and a familiar sight will greet you.

From the green-aproned staff to the chalkboard menu, the warm ambient lighting, and cozy chairs. You know what you’re getting when you go there.

While some people complain about this homogenized appearance, others crave the consistency you get from the brand.

This is particularly true if someone finds themselves in unfamiliar surroundings or a foreign country. Starbucks feels like home.

If you ever find yourself in an unlikely situation where there is no Starbucks on hand, I’ve got a fantastic recipe for the Starbucks blonde latte:

Homemade Starbucks blonde latte.

I’m confident this will tide you over until you can find that mermaid logo once more.

5. Customizable drinks

If the branding and the welcoming vibe don’t make you feel special enough, having a drink made specifically to your requirements definitely will.

While Starbucks has a set menu boasting fancy-sounding Italian names, you are perfectly able to go as off-piste as you like with your drink request.

Starbucks encourages this by offering a plethora of yummy syrups, as well as a multitude of milk options (including plant-based) and toppings like chocolate, nutmeg, and more.

Starbucks pumpkin spice Frappuccino with extra caramel sauce on top.
Starbucks pumpkin spice Frappuccino with extra caramel

Even the fussiest coffee lovers can find precisely what they’re looking for with minimal effort.

The most well-known customizable drink is the Starbucks Frappuccino, and if you’re a fan of the Frappuccino, you can check out all the available drinks in this article.

6. Work or relax in peace

Most eateries want you to finish your meal and clear off so they can use the table again. Drinking establishments are happy for you to stay as long as you keep filling your glass.

This is where Starbucks really bucks the trend. Their coffee shops have been created to make you linger.

Want to go work somewhere different for a few hours? Starbucks and its strategically placed power outlets will let you plug in and get to work for the price of one of their coffees.

Similarly, if you want to curl up with a good book, simply purchase the coffee of your choice, pick a comfy-looking chair, and have at it.

No one will bother you or request that you spend more money.

7. Stay safe and content in the “third place”

The “third place” refers to somewhere that’s separate from home and work, which are the two main social environments.

It’s a term often used by sociologists and urban planners. A neutral place, if you will, where people come together to meet and socialize.

Starbucks slots seamlessly into this third place. How many times have you heard “want to meet up and grab a coffee?” only to end up at Starbucks?

It’s because it’s convenient, and you get to chat with your friends in a clean, comfortable setting for a couple of bucks.

Starbucks has also become the go-to place for first dates.

No one wants to meet someone for the first time in a bar because it’s not the safest place, especially for women. Starbucks provides a safe yet intimate space for first meetings.

8. Specialty and seasonal drinks

I couldn’t get through this list without giving a shoutout to those incredible and sometimes downright weird drinks that become the season’s must-have.

Does anyone recall the Unicorn Frappucino? You probably raised your eyebrows at such a bizarre concept and then ran straight to your nearest Starbucks to try it out. I know I did!

Then, who can get through Fall without succumbing to the pumpkin spice latte? In fact, pumpkin spice has become so synonymous with Fall that I’m not sure where one begins and the other ends.

Pumpkin spice latte, ready to drink.

Pssst, if you can’t wait until Fall to get your Starbucks pumpkin spice fix, I’ve got a great recipe you can try along with homemade pumpkin spice syrup

9. On-point social media

Despite being around since the time cassette players and VHS reigned supreme, Starbucks has fully embraced the digital age.

Their full and active presence on social media is done in a way that speaks directly to the younger generations. You could say Starbucks is “down with the kids.”

Starbucks’ promotions on social media are strategically targeted to the audience in question.

While other coffee shop brands have fallen by the wayside when it comes to social media, Starbucks has made a real effort to understand and take it seriously.

10. An app worth downloading

As part of its digital prowess, Starbucks has upped the game with its app. Instead of waiting in a boring line, you can choose, order, and pay for your drink using only your phone.

A quick ping will tell you your drink is ready, so all you need to do is extract yourself from that cozy chair and go get it.

You’ll find all the promotions and deals on the app, too. It saves you the hassle of hunting them down. Simply open up the app and see what takes your fancy.

Final thoughts

Starbucks has put a lot of care into its brand and ethos, and it’s paid off big time. Currently, the brand has over 32,000 stores across 80 countries.

Costa, the world’s second-largest coffee chain, only has 4,000 shops worldwide. There is no comparison.

It remains to be seen if Starbucks will continue to rule supreme. Their willingness to adapt to the times suggests they will.

Meanwhile, customers like you and I will continue to happily pay the higher prices for its drinks because we know we’re getting so much more than a hot (or cold) beverage.

Homemade Starbucks drinks to try

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