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Visit nearly any Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) at almost any time of day, and you'll see proof that the company has succeeded in its goal of becoming a "third place" -- a social center beyond the home or the workplace. Its tables may be occupied by people working on novels, groups of friends chatting, businesspeople conducting meetings, and maybe even couples on dates.
The coffee chain has made its cafes into the kinds of places where people can be comfortable hanging out for much longer than it takes to consume a cup of joe and a pastry. That helps it sell a lot of beverages, snacks, and meals.
It's a model that even other coffeehouses and cafes have not been as successful with, but it's an enticing business strategy -- one that more companies are seeking to emulate. Among them are a pair of new players that you might not expect to find in this space -- Capital One (NYSE: COF) and AT&T (NYSE: T).
At core, Starbucks' model doesn't depart much from the cafe culture that predated it. Coffeehouses were always places to hang out, though at various times, they perhaps served more narrow demographics. Starbucks' variation on the theme has been to make itself a bit more inviting to a broader set of customers, with offerings even for those people who don't enjoy coffee. And of course, vitally, it has completely dispensed with the idea that people should leave when they've finished.
Enter Capital One's Cafes: Peet's coffee shops that are housed inside working banks, offer comfortable seating, cheap (sometimes free) drinks for cardholders, meeting spaces for local nonprofits, and of course, good WiFi. You won't have to be doing any banking to visit the cafes, nor will you have to have an Capital One account of any type. The bank/credit card company will offer some financial literacy programming in the cafes, but it will also host free food events, music performances, and holiday giveaways.
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