Observation Report: Coffee Shops in the Philippines

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Topic and Research Background

The focus of this observation research is general coffee shop behavior. Two main reasons caused the group to arrive at this topic: first, the members' shared passion for coffee and the coffee experience; second, the practicality that can be afforded since some members are working on a coffee-oriented business for their BA 129 feasibility study. Coffee shop behavior is something that can be readily observed and it occurs within a short time interval so that research by observation is viable.

Since Starbucks is the unquestionable leader in the industry, it was decided that the behavior in its stores be the focus of observations. However, the group also recognizes that other industry players are also quite significant, thus the choice to expand observations into three other popular coffee chains – Seattle's Best Coffee, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and the Filipino-owned Figaro Coffee, while Starbucks remained the point of reference for many observations and descriptions.

Description of selected venues

Starbucks. Common to the Starbucks stores are the warm lighting, the jazz or chill out music, the ochre tables and big couches, and the familiar baristas in green aprons. The Katipunan branch draws a lot of students, flanked by Chiggy's and National Book Store, very close to an overpass and right at the side of the road. All three mall branches are located at the ground floor at spots that generate a lot of traffic.

Seattle's Best. The store's corner location at Megastrip is to be envied – it is the most accessible coffee shop to people coming from the San Miguel Avenue area (say, San Miguel's employees and students of the UA&P). It has a seating capacity of about 120. The Katipunan branch is perfectly located as well, and the bright lighting contrasts with Starbucks' toned down atmosphere. It is a two-floor store right beside Kenny Rogers and is highly accessible to students and employees at the area.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Both branches are more spacious and more illuminated than Starbucks, and stocked with rattan chairs and Indonesian-style couches. The Cineplex branch is obviously quite open and relatively small, while the store at Gateway's ground floor is larger and highly visible (and accessible) to consumers passing by the mall's entrance. The Eastwood branch faces Starbucks right at the center of the mall's ground floor and has more al fresco tables than the other two branches.

Figaro Coffee. Figaro's stores have an "old-world" feel to them, drenched in polished wood, warm lighting, a lot of browns and muted colors. The Brick Road branch is nestled among popular hangouts such as Padi's Point and restaurants like TGIF, Don Henrico's, and Cabalen, while the Megamall branch is located at a much quieter place, at a second floor corner of the mall facing Esprit's boutique. All tables at this branch seats three to four people, save for two corner couch areas that can seat as much as six.

Methodology

The group used direct and unstructured observation, meaning it observed consumer behavior as it occurred, placing no restriction on what is noted. Observations were spread over two weeks and in ten coffee shops, the details of which follow:

StoreBranchHours of observationDay/Date
StarbucksKatipunan3Mon, Thurs, Fri – July 17, 20, 21, 24, 27
SM North2Fri – July 21
SM Megastrip2Tues – July 25
Eastwood Mall3Sat – July 22
Coffee Bean & Tea LeafGateway Cineplex1Wed – July 19
Gateway Ground Flr1Tue – July 18
Eastwood Mall1Thurs – July 20
Seattle's Best CoffeeKatipunan6Mon, Wed – July 17, 19
SM Megastrip1Wed – July 26
Figaro CoffeeBrick Road, Sta. Lucia1Fri – July 21
2/F Megamall2Wed – July 26
Total hours:23 hours

All behaviors in the episode were monitored and everything deemed interesting and relevant by the observer were noted. The group then consolidated the observations to look for 1) common themes or...
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