The reason Starbucks exists is I can sit down, drink a coffee, and do nothing for thirty minutes.

In the US most restaurants have one of two purposes: serve food or serve alcohol. Those are their purposes. You eat, then you get the hell out. Or you have a few beers and sit around. There are fairly few establishments where in the early afternoon I can drink coffee, not beer, and do a little nothing. Sometimes I want to read a book. Sometimes I want to play on my phone outside the apartment. Sometimes I want to sit at a table and space out. I will achieve the Zen of mental absence. At 2 pm I don’t necessarily want a beer, but restaurants are focused on serving food and turning tables.

Coffee shops fill a vacancy, with Starbucks being the leader. People whine about burned beans and overpriced coffee, but those whiners are missing the point. I’m buying an hour of table space in a reasonably quiet facility outside my apartment. The cost of providing that table space is charged in coffee, and comes to three to six bucks a cup. AC, a swept floor, a reasonably comfortable chair: those add up to five-dollar coffee at Starbucks quality. Whatever. That’s the price to sell.

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