Sunday, 7 March 2010

Creeping in Costas

When I read the brief for this assignment I was pretty excited as there has been many times when myself and either my friend or my mum sit in a café or are out for lunch and have a good gaze at people in the place or out the window so this assignment fitted right into my comfort zone!

So like most of us, I went to a coffee shop but instead of choosing Starbucks I went for its competitor Costas inside Waterstones. So I didn’t think it wasn’t going to be too busy as its just out of the way of the main shopping area so I would be able to focus more on individuals, little did I know it was actually almost full!

The first thing I noticed when I walked in was that Costas itself was above the book shop floor and our of the way but designed in open plan so it still felt very much part of the shop and continued the relaxed atmosphere all around. As soon as we got to the counter (as you buy your coffee etc before you sit down, incase you haven’t been before) there was an absolutely adorable baby girl who I think looked about 9 months old, when I looked around at the other customers, including my friends whom I had come with, I noticed that almost everybody was lifted by the presence of this little girl, smiling at her and I could tell secretly trying to get her attention, I thought that this was quite a common behaviour and I’m not sure why but having a baby or younger child in the room always attracts friendly gestures towards the family of the infant. For example you wouldn’t go up to a family with teenaged children and compliment the looks of them that would come across as a bit strange I would think. But when it is a baby it seems alright to go up and talk to the parents as a older woman quite happily did in the queue when she was waiting for the woman to make her latte with a piece of millionaire shortbread. (Yes I listened into her order aswell)

When we sat down my friends made sure that we had a good table that I was able to creep from while they chatted. The atmosphere had changed compared to the area where you ordered and collected your teas and coffees, I felt suddenly that each table where on an island of there own and even eye contact with another table seemed to be unheard of when we entered the seating area. When I was looking around and observing I noticed that if I did catch anybodies eye that they would quickly turn away or dart their eyes in a different direction. As you can see from the poorly taken photograph the layout is pretty much a square balcony over the book store letting you look down at the books as you consume whatever you have bought (Probably a marketing design to encourage people who have just come for a coffee to purchase books) I noted down that the balcony directly ahead of where I was sitting mainly had business type persons sitting on their own often with a newspaper, and strangely enough sitting facing the same direction that would be towards the front of the shop. Also the same table areas were usually occupied by the same era of people aswell, for example the older generation tended to go for the tables situated closest to the entrance and tables that seemed to be out of the way (there is another section of the café that is not shown in this photo as it is behind the ordering desk) , the younger groups of friends tended to go for the corners of the square lay-out including myself. The furthest away corner from me had the same style of younger people sitting at the table one after the other twice, the sort of punk rock group. People that had come in with there children went for the table that were on the inner square, I thought that this was maybe to encourage them into looking down at the books and maybe spotting something of interest as the children and sports books are situated in the area below the café.

Once I had evaluated the customers I then went onto look at the waitresses that were about, although they had very little contact with customers after they had collected there tea and coffee. I only really noticed the same waitress that was going around the square balcony clearing away the empty tables mugs plates and napkins that were pretty much all left in a mess. However she only cleared the tables she didn’t wipe them down afterward but I didn’t know whether that was because she didn’t have time or as soon as she had cleared the tables somebody else would sit on them before she got a chance to go back to them which I noticed happened at least twice. I also noticed that tables were left for about 5 to 10 minutes before being attended to, which was done in one big sweep, the waitress I saw cleared about 2-3 tables in one go. Maybe this was the method many of the waitress use in coffee shops as I have noticed this being the preferred method in Starbucks as they come out with a tray/tub things and gather all the plates in a one go.

Although I didn’t get round to discussing this assignment with anybody in person I have just read a few of the blogs that I am following that already have posted there assignments and seen that they have noticed similar patterns in coffee shops and café that I have also noted, so whether this is just the unwritten rule of such environments or just habit im not too sure.

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