Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Searching for a signal: Starbucks per capita

I was taking a look at the PG Early Returns politics journal and their Oct 20 post mentions this article by Bloomberg Columnist Margaret Carlson who wrote with derision that Pennsylvania had the lowest number of starbucks per capita. Now I do believe that columnists are allowed their hyperbole, but I wondered if this metric really existed. Of course it was a silly question since everything is now quantified somewhere. There are even journals of how to measure things.

Anyway, google quickly lead me to this list of Starbucks per capita in major cities. Take it for what its worth.. it's a little hard to find how it was created. but way down at the bottom is indeed Philadelphia (rank 53 of 54). but near the top is actually Pittsburgh ranked 11 of 54. Not bad when you consider the few regions ahead of us include Seattle, San Fran, even Las Vegas... all clearly ringers in this contest.

Does it mean anything? In itself of course not.. but it does make for a good column snippet. But maybe it does mean something if the prevalence of Starbucks is a signal for other amenities that one is looking for. Starbucks per capita could easily be a signal for identifying where other like minded people are since I am sure those Starbucks marketers are focusing their investment in particular places with common characteristics. Whether that means a high SQ (Starbucks quotient?) is a place you want to move to or move away from is your personal call.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One interesting thing that I've noticed after moving here from Austin is that Starbucks' target demographic seems to be very different here than in Austin. In Austin, the prototypical Starbucks denizen is some variant of the "do you hear me now" dude from the Verizon commercials. Here it's closer to, well, Corrado Soprano. Seriously. Spend a weekday morning at the Starbucks at Virginia Manor Shop(pe)s if you doubt me. I had the same experience at the Starbucks on Library Rd near South Park.

Much of this is obviously the result of Pittsburgh's generally older demographic, and the fact that the Burgh's urban hipsters aren't really concentrated in the South Hills, but I can't help but wonder if the effectiveness of the SQ measure isn't mitigated somewhat by the size of the local Italian-American population. Espresso is, after all, an Italian invention.

On another note, I'm happy to see how well the local coffee shops are faring here, despite Starbucks. From Prestogeorge taking over Starbucks old location in the Strip to Kiva Han thriving across the street from Starbucks on Craig St. Right on.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 2:14:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

ha. Have not been to Austin but I have no reason to doubt any of that. I was having a conversation with someone recently who didnt believe me that there was a Starbucks location in the Strip that went away.

but growing up in Bloomfield this makes me realize that there really was not any preponderance of expresso being served anywhere. Expresso is not actually that old a drink and I kind of wonder if most of the immigrants came over before expresso became a big thing in Italy early in the 20th century.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 6:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a slight improvement on Richard Florida's gay bar per-capita measure.

Thursday, October 26, 2006 9:54:00 AM  
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Just knew there was going to be a Florida comment lurking out there.

Actually, a measure I would find more interesting is the ratio of non-chain coffee shops to Starbucks (per cup-ita, of course).

Not sure how CityTownInfo came up with the metric. On the page about PIT, they list 26 Starbucks. Going to the Starbucks corp site, searching on "retail shops" (which do not include the B&N locations) within a 50 mile radius of PIT, I find 55 shops, that is if you count New Stanton as part of the PIT MSA, and do not count Uniontown, or Triadelphia WV. If you search using DexOnline on PIT and surrounding areas, for Starbucks, you get 46. Those just in the "city" of PIT, 25. CityTownInfo uses 2005 numbers, so that -1 difference may be the location in the Strip.

I guess this is just the sort of mindless spider hacking that I could generate a blog entry from.

Thursday, October 26, 2006 8:37:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I really wasn't thinking of RF when I wrote that.. I think he would be more interested in those 24 hour coffee shops though.

I think the intent is that these are city numbers not region number. My guess is actually that the method used looks at Pittsburgh the mailing address which may inflate the Pittsburgh number more than other places. but I am not sure.

spider hacking? is that really a term?

Thursday, October 26, 2006 9:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think an even more interesting number is the number of coffeehouses with free wifi. auscillate.com would have you think that Pittsburgh is way behind (and Austin way ahead) in this category, but there's a lot of reporting bias (auscillate was started by an Austinite).

One of my pet peeves about Pittsburgh is the number of coffeehouses that make you pay (usually thru Telerama) for your wifi access, even though it's essentially a fixed cost for them. I can't tell whether this is because to few Pittsburghers want free wifi to make it a good loss-leader, or because most coffeehouse owners here just don't "get" the internet.

Friday, October 27, 2006 2:49:00 PM  

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