Rockin’ Out the Coffee Shop


In my ongoing quest to find random reasons to request government funding for research, just so I can feel better about my tax dollars, I have been doing some very non-scientific research on the music volumes at various coffee shops.  Phase 1 of my research has been at three of the big chains – Starbucks, Panera, and Dunkin Donuts.  Phase 2, which will require millions of taxpayer dollars and the painful consumption of massive amounts of caffeine, will focus more on the non-chain shops. Maybe even a trip to Amsterdam to check out ALL of the offerings at their “coffee shops”.  🙂

Anyway, the executive summary of my research is as follows:

  • Starbucks – concert level volume usually – don’t bother showing up if you have to take any sort of phone call where you don’t want to apologize constantly for the insane amount of background noise.
  • Panera – tolerable volume – calls are possible – only apologies that will be required will relate to giggling teenage girls or the random sound of the bagel slicer, which does sound like some sort of torture device if you close your eyes.
  • Dunkin Donuts – simply put, entirely random.

Ok – so what’s the deal?  Is there some sort of overall corporate policy for preferred noise level at all locations?  I am envisioning a paid corporate position that involves unannounced visits to random locations at random times with a noise meter.  Maybe it’s even connected to the store’s Wifi to automatically report in to the centralized store location noise level reporting system.  If they report back something out of the acceptable range, is there a shock collar involved?  Do the store employees have to play rock, paper, scissors on who wears it every day?  Or maybe corporate just controls the music volume centrally with a permanently installed noise meter?

(Sidebar: if this were a government agency, the noise meter position would be a required, full-time, paid position at each location.  This person would sit in the back room and just stare at the noise meter and adjust the music volume manually.  Of course, after 10 years of service, this person would be entitled to a lifetime pension with full benefits.)

Maybe corporate has some sort of store noise volume incentive program?  Starbucks’ program would be how loud can you store be before either a) you can no longer hear the coffee orders or b) people just stop coming.  Also, what is up with the coffee grinders at Starbucks?  I’m pretty sure I can jackhammer my driveway with a lower decibel level than one of those.  I might suggest that they take some of the profits from my $5 latte and invent something quieter.

On a more serious note though, I really do wonder if it is corporate policy to maintain a certain type of atmosphere in their stores for whatever reason.  While they have the best WiFi hands-down, Starbucks really isn’t the best place if you need to have any sort of serious conversation.  Panera is by far the most welcoming atmosphere, though their WiFi is a bit sketchy and very inconsistent across store locations.

And then there is Dunkin Donuts.  I believe their corporate policy must indicate the need for some level of randomness at their locations.  Maybe they want to keep the customers guessing whether they can chat, rock out to some music, neither, or both.  They definitely lose in the welcoming category, but they do brew a nicely consistent cup of coffee for sure.

Back to my form for requesting the millions I need to do a more proper study of this.  It would obviously benefit our society as a whole.  Right?  🙂

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