|Starbucks Reserve store in Seoul / Courtesy of Starbucks Korea|
By Kim Jae-heun
Starbucks Korea is allegedly trying to reduce the number of sockets in their coffee shops to stop customers from staying there for a long time.
A 31-year-old office worker surnamed Lee visited a Starbucks coffee shop recently in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, and was shocked to notice there were hardly any electricity outlets available for use.
"Usually a Starbucks coffee shop has tables with many electricity sockets for customers. But this shop had barely any. Some people like me came in with laptops and had to leave as there were no electricity outlets available," Lee said.
According to a local media report, Starbucks Korea has installed no outlets at 10 shops that have opened over the last three years including those at Shinsegae Department Store in Hoehyeon-dong, Seoul, Incheon International Airport and Starfield Hanam in Gyeonggi Province.
Starbucks Korea said the situation differs based on the location of the shops. For example, the global coffee franchise decided not to install sockets in high-traffic areas such as shopping malls.
"However, in areas where there are many colleges or private education institutes, Starbucks installs many electricity outlets for students to come and study," a Starbucks Korea official said.
Despite Starbucks Korea's response, its coffee shop opened in Noryangjin in April 2018 had only four outlets for around 100 tables. Noryangjin is a busy district filled in southern Seoul with scores of cram schools, and many expected the Starbucks there to adopt enough sockets for students to use.
Following criticism, the shop increased the number of outlets there.
Local residents have been especially disappointed with Starbucks' initiative to reduce the number of sockets as the global cafe company initially gained popularity in the country through its customer-friendly policies and creating a comfortable atmosphere for people to work long hours.
In the early 2000s, Starbucks used its strategy to push out all its competitors in the market, outperforming its biggest rival Coffee Bean Korea which offered no sockets in their shops.
However, this is apparently not a lucrative system as coffee businesses prefer customers to take out their drinks or stay for a short of time to maximize profitability.
Lee believes the franchise purposely also introduced tables with shorter legs so people can't work as comfortably on their laptops on them for long hours.
"That is not correct. We have shorter tables for people so they can better communicate and have a good time while visiting our shops," a Starbucks Korea official said.