[Updated 8 Nov 07: I like the Dame Street Starbucks for a lot of reasons but wish it had comfy seating like you find in the States. That said, it's hard to find comfy seating in High Street coffee shops in Ireland.]
STARBUCKS DILUTED its marque when it set up shop in Ireland. Those expecting comfort, space, ambience and coffee at Starbucks Ireland won't find those brand qualities in the Republic because the chain has opted for a elbows-wide footprint for its guests. That's understandable in the bowels of Grand Central Station where the proprietors want to minimise comfort for the street people who try to camp out all day but for Irish business customers, Starbucks has no space. The company wants a takeaway crowd--how else can you rationalise the puny tabletop allotments in Starbucks Ireland?
Dublin had a cafe culture for years, led by the Bewley's flagship. Think tables big enough for two high chairs and a wall of upholstered seats for the comfort-minded. Bewley's flushed out of the market because of running costs and property rates. Starbucks has those problems covered because it's hiring casual labour, bolting on accessories for the coffee moments (wifi, mugs, beans) and keeping the shops smaller than the Bewley cruise ship model that plyed 19th century Dublin. However, Starbucks Ireland has squeezed its setup too tightly and now risks becoming a commodity stopover for hapless American tourists who don't know they've been cheated in their coffee moment.
If Starbucks Ireland uses its Dublin setup as a national model, those in the know will never recommend it as a meeting place. Dublin now has discerning coffee drinkers who know the business and that business comes with customer elbow room. You need to be able to read a broadsheet without rubbing against the bubble of the customer next to you. Your table needs to be large enough to open an iBook next to an A5 copybook. I get those things from Starbucks Lancaster, Starbucks Santa Monica and Starbucks Scottsdale. I deserve them in Starbucks Ireland.
Steve McCormack and Adrian Weckler agree. Culture Sluts should podcast from those cramped quarters and hit home the point every 10 minutes.