Alice G. Walton puts the coffeehouse on the couch:
[T]he coffee house plays the central role of “Third Place” in our lives – home being the first and work being the second – and Starbucks has always been vocal about its desire to be this third place for its customer. What’s interesting is that humans actually really need this place, and we’ve needed if for practically our whole existence, according to some. About 20 years ago, Ray Oldenburg, PhD, who wrote a book called The Great Good Place, argued that there are a number of attributes that make a third place a third place: It has to be convenient, inviting, serve something, and have some good regulars (which, he says, is actually more important than having a good host).
Recent store renovations seem to discourage sitting for too long:
“Changing the business model from third places to speed lane stops will not change the underlying human psychological need,” says Suzanne Roff, PhD, an industrial psychologist. “The value added to a cup of Starbucks coffee is the safe, unhurried comfortable environment that is not home or the workplace. This has become its brand identification.” If Starbucks continues to standardize its stores and shave down their comforts, its “third placeness” will continue to dissolve, and “urban consumers in particular will lose an informal social network (that emerges without a plan) that is an important antidote to loneliness and isolation."
(Discarded sign found next to a dumpster behind a Starbucks in Roanoke Rapids, Va via I Heart Chaos)