Ethnography Proposal

In my ethnography I’m going to study a coffeehouse chain, such as Starbucks. I will be observing as well as socializing in attempt to compare and contrast multiple characteristics one must have to face in working in such an environment. At Starbucks the Baristas must have a genuine upbeat personality to each customer. I would like to study a locally owned coffee house as well to compare the different environments and how one might keep a small business afloat when we have such large chains. I will be observing the interactions that the Barista have with each customer and how he/she will handle that customer.

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I plan to visit at least two separate coffee houses that are relatively close to one another and will ask several customers from each shop why they chose each coffee house. I will spend about two to three hours at both houses at around the same time of the day. I will be sitting with a notebook to take notes on what I’m observing. I may also include a brief interview with at least one barista, in which i plan to approach with a simple question asking if i could have a moment of their time to answer a few questions about their work environment. Questions will not be intrusive in any i am looking for more generic answers as to how they like working for chain/independent coffee houses.

The reason i have chosen to study this group is because i want to figure out how a small business can compete with a large chain such as Starbucks. Everywhere i go i see a Starbucks and most classmates would like to meet at a Starbucks so i can observe the different occasions people come in besides getting a cup of coffee. Also caffeine is the worlds most popular stimulate and four out of every five Americans drink coffee at any given time.

Some problems i will face in my research will be timing. When is the best time to come in and observe? How long will i be there for? I tend to notice by experience that coffee shops hit off at certain times of the day and are very empty at others. Where the coffee shop is located will be a factor as well. Some questions i had about my study is, I’m not sure who i should lean my study towards, would it be more difficult to look at customers or at the
employers. Also should i be comparing separate coffee houses or just sticking to one?

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