Monday, August 11, 2008

Singapore: Where Starbucks is not a coffee shop

In Singapore, Starbucks is not considered a coffee shop. Starbucks is a café. A coffee shop in Singapore is equivalent to our food courts, only it is housed in an outdoor pavilion, and all of the food is very cheap. What we call cafes, they call restaurants. In their “coffee shops,” you order at the particular vendor you want, and instead of standing at the stall waiting for your food (which, admittedly, would just cause more congestion in such a crowded area), you go and sit at a numbered table, which you indicate to the vendor. The vendor then drops off the food to that particularly numbered table. No congestion around the vendor’s booth; no tip required. Quite a smart arrangement, if I do say so.

I am sure American food companies would protest that this system would hurt their pocketbooks, since more employees would be required, but really, each vendor would only need to employ one food runner, two at most. Food courts—excuse me, coffee shops—are not that big, and everyone does not eat from the same vendor at the same time.

So to make this clear, let me illustrate several linguistic conversions. First I will list the term for what the US concept would be. Therefore, when I put the term US coffee shop, imagine a Starbucks. Then, I will list what the equivalent Singaporean (yet still English) term would be:

  • US coffee shop (e.g. Starbucks) = Sing café
  • US food court (e.g. outdoor mall food court) = Sing coffee shop
  • US café (e.g. Panera) = Sing restaurant
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