Starbucks coffee mugs placed upside down
Starbucks coffee mugs placed upside down (source)

The first Starbucks store opened in Seattle in 1971. Since then, Starbucks has opened more than 32 000 stores in 80 countries. In some cities, like New York or Seoul, there seems to be a store on every block. If you have not been to a Starbucks, you have probably at least seen one.

The company’s success is also reflected in their business rankings. By revenue in 2019, Starbucks was the number one restaurant chain in the world, pulling in $26.5 billion. According to Forbes, it was the 37th most valuable global brand that year.

However, ubiquity and business prowess are not what everyone is looking for in a cafe. Some customers reject cafe chains, preferring independent or unique places for drinking coffee. For those customers, Starbucks is the McDonald’s of cafes, where the stores all look the same and serve the exact same products.

It is true that the Starbucks experience is similar from store to store, but their coffee is good, and they are comfortable places to spend some time. There are suitable seats for working, and others for groups that want to chat. The atmosphere is cozy and relaxed, helped by the use of wood and earthy colors in the decor.

Beyond a standard range of espresso-based drinks, Starbucks has seasonal creations and other novelty drinks. These can be quite sugary. They also have a few food options like sandwiches and cakes. Their prices tend to be higher than average.

If you are on a tight budget or if you are averse to big chains, Starbucks might not be for you. Otherwise, it is worth visiting a Starbucks store to see why they have been so successful.


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Worksheet with activities

Useful Language

  • Reflect (v) - to show
  • Revenue (n) - the income of a company or government
  • Pull in (phr. v) - to earn
  • Ubiquity (n) - the quality of being everywhere
  • Prowess (n) - great skill or ability
  • Earthy (adj) - natural colors, like brown and yellow
  • Decor (n) - the style of the inside of a building or house
  • Novelty (adj, n) - new or unusual
  • On a tight budget (idiom) - having not much money to spend
  • To be averse to (phr.) - to not like or want to do


Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. What did this review make you think about? Did anything in the review surprise you?
  2. Do you drink coffee? What kinds? If not, why not?
  3. Do you look for drinks that have caffeine in them? How many do you drink each day? Or do you avoid caffeine?
  4. What are the pros and cons of chain stores?
  5. Have you been to a Starbucks? How was it?
  6. What are the most well-known brands in the world? Which brand do you most respect?
  7. What is a good way to save money if you are on a tight budget?
  8. Cafes are good places for… doing what?
  9. In life, do you prefer variety or familiarity?
  10. How important is decor? Does it affect how you feel?