All people are really looking for is consistency. Once it becomes an expectation, you can start charging a premium.
Starbucks invented consistency. Theirs might not be the best coffee in the world, but it was always good enough — maybe 7.5 on most people’s scale of ten — and you knew exactly what you were going to get.
It turned out that buyers were willing to pay an amazing premium for consistency. The $1 cup of coffee became a $5 cup of coffee. – Robert Cottrell, “A Starbucks Theory of Publishing“
In addition to providing a consistent product, Starbucks also excels in producing a good experience. It creates a third place between work and home. Starbucks is a social network, a work place, and coffee shop all in one all.
As Tom Standage writes in Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years, coffee houses were the original social networks. Starbucks is merely playing off an old phenomenon. People want a place to meet and exchange ideas outside the pub. For creatives, Starbucks is the perfect place to stay focused on their work. Studies show that the hum of a coffee shop is precisely the right decibel level required to keep people productive.
Perhaps more important than Starbucks coffee is its Internet connection, the water for today’s new generation. Everyone knows Starbucks as a place to charge up and access high-speed Internet. Retailers and restaurants use WiFi to reel in customers.
Above all, Starbucks is an affordable luxury. Anyone can go and get a table at Starbucks. You don’t even need to order anything. And if you do, it can just be a regular TALL coffee.