Co.Design

Infographic: We've Become The United States Of Starbucks

A map of 8,000 U.S. Starbucks locations uses spatial analytics to plot the chain’s staggering reach.

It feels like there’s a Starbucks on every corner, but is there, really? I may spot five green-clad coffee shops on the way to work each morning, but Starbucks doesn’t often flaunt their massive reach. There’s no placemat with maps of every location, à la Big Boy—once you’re big enough, there’s really no good that will come from reminding people just how big you really are.

But University of Washington PhD candidate James Davenport wanted an answer. So he scraped the location of nearly every corporate-owned Starbucks location (in other words, everything but those tiny Starbucks inside grocery stores) from a food review website, then plotted the 8,000 U.S. locations he found onto a map of the country, adding a bit of spatial analytics to the mix.

The first image is a Delaunay triangulation, or a series of unique, non-overlapping triangles connecting Starbucks locations to their nearest peers. This render, unto itself, looks neat, like some dystopian United States in which our territories are decided by coffee proximity. But ultimately, it doesn’t tell us a whole lot.

Click to enlarge.

The next image is a bit more revealing. It’s a Voronoi diagram, which connects the centers of each triangle you saw in the first image. What results is essentially a map of service regions for each Starbucks location. And interestingly enough, when you begin measuring all these vertices, you learn that the farthest expanse between any two Starbucks is a mere 140 miles.

Finally, by applying 2010 census information on population density to this map, Davenport could analyze just how many people were within the reach of any given Starbucks location. His finding was pretty incredible: More than 80% of the U.S. population, or a whopping 250,000,000 people, lives within 20 miles of a Starbucks. And over 30% of the U.S. population lives within a mile of one.

Click to enlarge.

"The end result is that Starbucks does an extremely good job of providing coffee for the U.S.," Davenport says, euphemistically. "One reader from Twitter remarked, rather brilliantly, that if Starbucks had Wi-Fi reception that covered 5 miles, more than half the U.S. would have free Wi-Fi!"

We have to say, that’s not such a bad idea. You may not dig their oft-burnt coffee, but everyone loves free Wi-Fi.

Read more here.

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10 Comments

  • SteveOfOz

    Starbucks pulled out of Australia, because Aussies are used to good coffee and would not pay premium prices for Airplane coffee.

    Sometimes marketing is not an adequate substitute for product quality.  Microsoft and GM should be very afraid.

  • Guest

    "One reader from Twitter remarked, rather brilliantly, that if Starbucks
    had Wi-Fi reception that covered 5 miles, more than half the U.S. would
    have free Wi-Fi"

    Only "brilliant" if you don't know the current limitations of Wi-Fi...

  • Sam Gouthy

    I've got to say this is the kind of "article" that irks me to no end. I refer not to the very interesting and [ahem] ORIGINAL article by James Davenport on ifweassume.com, but rather this Fast Company eyeball hog page that merely sponges the original article and adds zero additional value aside from an awkwardly out of place glib jab at Starbucks coffee by Wilson and his 'royal we.' C'mon FC, come up with your own material - mayhaps some original content about, oh I don't know, Dunkin' Donuts...? (And no, I have no affiliation with Starbucks.)

  • friendz57

    Where was the mention of Starbucks' totalitarian approach to coffee service (one reason for the insidious sprawl)? A common practice for the company was to lease a location in the same block as an independent local coffee shop and plunder its customers until the neighboring shop went out of business. They did this even when there was already another Starbucks in the next block up. As soon as the independent folded, Starbucks closed their doors on the extra shop, leaving many downtown cores with only one choice. I don't know if this is still a practice for corporate chiefs, but their coffee always leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, especially when I can't find an alternative.

  • JB

    It's not incredible or even relevant that 80% of the population lives within 20 miles of a Starbucks, because no one travels 20 miles to buy coffee.

  • WH

    In St. Louis, I'd say most of the population here travels around 20 miles to work so pretty much everyone here has a Starbucks on the way to work

  • James R A Davenport

    I disagree - people are perfectly willing to drive more than 20 miles for big box retailers, which often host or are located next to a Starbucks.

  • Youngrsrere

    when we want a treat which is starbucks or a coffee stand i have to travel 13 mile!.. not unheard of...

  • lagavulin

    It's completely incredible! The fact that a single company has 80% of arguably the world's most consumerist population within 20 miles of its site is an ode to Capitalism that would make Lenin weep.