Starbucks Third Space - CoolStuff Studios

How Starbucks Created a Third Space

In shared spaces or community buildings what is commonly referred to as the third space—or place—are the social surroundings separate from the two typical social environments most people experience: one’s home (or the “first place”) and the workplace (also called the “second place”).

Third places are often considered anchors of community life. They serve as meeting spots that foster and facilitate creative and broad social interaction.

So what is an optimal example of this concept? No company has created a more successful third place than Seattle based coffee giant, Starbucks.

Starbucks’ Third Space

Think about it. Starbucks is synonymous with soft chairs fashioned of buttery leather, intoxicating aromas of shade-grown java, free wifi and acoustic music gently pumped through unseen speakers.
This is precisely why Starbucks is more than just a coffee retailer.

The company understands the importance of providing great customer service, and their main goal is to become the third place in our daily lives. Stop by a Starbucks at any given time and you’ll see customers chatting on their phones, surfing the Internet, meeting for a quick business strategy meeting, and lazily gazing out the window.

This isn’t an accident, as the company paid big bucks to fully understand what delivering the perfect cup of coffee—in the perfect environment—would take.

Key Elements of Starbucks’ Third Space

There are a few key attributes third spaces typically include.

These spaces should, ideally, be inexpensive or even free to use. Food and drink, while not necessarily essential, also help to create interest and draw in occupants. These areas should also be highly accessible, and even within walking distance to their target audience.

Finally, third spaces need to be comfortable and welcoming. Soft music, muted or calming colors, and cozy furniture are always a big help in this area. Furthermore, a third place should be an ideal spot where friends new and old can meet. Most third spaces also involve regulars, who are those who habitually congregate.

What We Can Learn from Starbucks

Community locations such as churches or dental offices can also create successful third spaces, providing they follow the attributes listed above and feature welcoming spaces where discussion and hanging out is comfortable and effortless.

Keep in mind there is also the concept of neutral ground that is tied to the idea of a third space. This essentially means that visitors of third places typically have no obligation to be there, and are free to come and go as they please.

With a space that revolves around communication—whether it is small talk, ministry or business planning—and a little creativity, virtually any business can create a successful third space.


If you’re interested in creating a warm and welcoming environment for your guests, we here at CoolStuff Studios have years of experience designing, creating, and implementing engaging environments. Contact us for a free visioneering consultation session.