Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

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Starbucks API

Over at Snarkmarket, Robin offers up an interesting take on the new unbranded Starbucks stores that are popping up:

What if Starbucks was offering up a Starbucks API–a set of hooks into a vast, efficient coffee shop support system with incredible economies of scale? You, the local coffee shop owner, simply plug in, and wham, your costs drop by thirty percent because you’re leveraging Starbucks’ insanely optimized supply chain. You can use as much or as little as you want.

It’s funny, just this weekend a friend of mine was telling me a story about a chain restaurant not being able to open in his town because of a law against that sort of thing. So instead the restaurant just opened under a different name with some local flavor and did amazingly well, to this day many who go there (and sing its praises) have no idea it’s part of a chain they’d likely avoid at all cost in any other city. Seriously, though, there’s something really interesting about the idea of physical APIs. I’ve been thinking a lot about franchising lately, and the interesting ways that the web allows people to pick up ideas and bring them to new places (see: likemind). Need to think about this one more.

August 5, 2009


  • Sriram Venkit says:

    That sounds like an amazing idea. Optimizing between economies of scale, standardization on one side and individuality and local on the other. It is not very far from what franchises are today, but I think there’d be a world of difference pushing the toggle towards the individuality side for a balanced mix. With modern IT, CRM it is more possible now than ever before. For the same reason I like how “chapters” work for organizations. But I don’t like the idea of stealth Starbucks or stealth chain restaurant, I like a more “Local Hippies Coffee & Cookies shop – powered by Starbucks” approach.

  • Taylor Davidson says:

    Love the idea of physical APIs (I’ve been thinking about intellectual “personal APIs” lately).

    How do you think it would be different than outsourcing or professional services contracts? Is it the notion of flexibility, of the ease of starting, using and ending the business relationship?

  • Jared Gruner says:

    Funny, John Gerzema was making the same point over on his Brand Bubble blog (http://thebrandbubble.com/blog/index.php/2009/08/03/revolution-or-retread-thoughts-on-starbucks-15th-avenue/)

    Sriram and Robin are right though. Starbucks is such a polarizing brand, and this “local” effort has been so publicized, that participating shops would be subject to witchhunts unless it was done transparently.

  • Sriram Venkit says:

    This is not exactly what you might mean by physical API’s but check this out: Wal-Mart entered India as a wholesaler instead of a direct-to-customer relatiler (and as a join venture with Bharti, an indian conglomerate).

    “The opening comes at a politically crucial time for foreign firms eager to tap India’s $430 billion retail market. The entry of big-box players in India has been controversial because small, mom-and-pop “kirana” shops are such an important part of the local economy. Many fear they’d be decimated if big players like Wal-Mart are allowed unfettered access to the Indian market.

    For now, Bharti Wal-Mart’s Best Price shops can only sell their 6,000 food and nonfood items to other businesses because Indian law prohibits foreign companies from selling direct to customers in multi-brand retail outlets. Single-brand retailers, like Reebok, can run shops.”

    In many ways this is a win-win solution for small stores and Wal-Mart.


  • What If An Agency Had An API? | Noah Brier dot Com says:

    […] most of what agencies do is still mostly soft and not-so-easy to arrange.” I then went on to talk about brand APIs a bit, which I still think is a really interesting concept but haven’t put enough thought around to […]

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