New Funeral Trend…Starbucks?

July 16, 2012
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Last week (Friday) we saw the announcement that Robinson Funeral Home is South Carolina was going to be the first funeral home to open a Starbucks franchise inside of their building. This announcement was spread widely across the funeral profession. One of my favorite responses came from Caleb Wilde.
Caleb has a cleaver way of writing and sharing his thoughts. The comments in his article about this Starbucks franchise go far beyond the initial cup of coffee.
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Coffee has left it’s mark on our funeral home.  About a year ago a 20 something stood in a viewing line for about a half hour with a 32 oz of coffee in her hand.  Upon approaching the deceased, the sometimes acute psychosomatic experience called “grief” caused her to spill the entire cup right in-front of the casket and onto the rug.

After the viewing, I cleaned it up with our carpet cleaning vacuum, but the mark is still vaguely visible.

While coffee has left a carpet mark on our funeral home, it will forever mark the Robinson Funeral Home in Easley, South Carolina as they will be opening up a Starbucks Franchise in their funeral home sometime in August.

Maybe Robinson can serve their own original blend: The caffe morte.  A cup to die for.  Especially when its served with extra cremation.

I’m just not sure how this is going to work.  The coffee shop itself is open to the public.  Does this mean that I can sit in the lounge area and drink my grande iced caffe macchiato while enjoying my New York Times and a view of today’s funeral?

There’s always the-guy-talking-very-loudly-on-his-cell-phone at Starbucks.  What happens when he comes into the Robinson Starbucks during a funeral?


Honestly, I’m more interested in the ideas behind the Robinson Starbucks than I am the logistics of it’s operation.

Why?  Why would you do this?

Chris Robinson — the owner of the funeral home — says that it’s “one more service for people to choose from.”

I wonder if it’s an attempt to attract the younger crowd to funerals.  I can picture the conversation between a mother and her son:

“Bobby, are you coming to your grandma’s funeral?”

“I don’t think so … funerals just aren’t my thing.”

“They have a Starbucks at the funeral home.”

“Do you know if they have WiFi?”

“Yes. They have WiFi and a TV.” (*the Robinson Starbucks will also include a fireplace … I wish I was making this up)

“Well, I guess I’ll come.”

Funerals are just like church … we should use any means possible just to get ‘em through the doors.

Maybe the purpose of the Robinson Starbucks is simply supplemental income?

I can also picture that conversation in Chris Robinson’s head:

“I need to make some more money.  What can give me that jolt … that competitive advantage that no other funeral home has … it has to meet a basic need.

McDonalds!?!  No.  A McDonalds would be like handing out cigarettes to my clientele.  Too obvious.

A bar?  No.  I’m getting close.

What would help people experience grief with an added edge?  A medicinal marijuana shop?  No … bad PR.

Starbucks.  Yes.


Here is the actual news release from ABCNews.com:
As the owner of a South Carolina funeral home, Chris Robinson is in the business of helping people grieve. This summer, he plans to do that with a hand from Starbucks.

Funeral-goers at the Robinson Funeral Home in Easley, S.C., will soon find baristas in Starbucks uniforms serving lattes in the lobby, where Robinson is building a “Coffee Corner.” Robinson, whose family has owned the funeral home for four generations, said the addition of a Starbucks on the premises — complete with a Wi-Fi area, fireplace and television — is intended as one more way to comfort the bereaved.

“It should help families escape from the stress a little bit, having a private area to get their minds off of what’s going on,” Robinson said.

The coffee shop will not be a full-fledged Starbucks. Though its employees will be trained by Starbucks, they will be on Robinson’s staff, and Robinson’s agreement with the company stipulates that there will be no glowing green Starbucks sign outside the funeral home.

While the coffee is intended primarily for funeral attendees, it will be open to the public via a patio entrance.

Robinson, who owns two other funeral homes in the area, has been serving free coffee to customers for years. But when he realized his facility’s renovation would provide ample space for a coffee shop, he decided to upgrade his offerings. He turned to Starbucks, he said, because theirs is “the best coffee out there.”

“If we’re going to offer a Coffee Corner, we’re going to get the best there is,” he said.

Concerned that some “might get the wrong idea,” Robinson stressed that the Starbucks will be on the opposite end of the facility from the chapel.

“You won’t be hit in the face with it,” he said. “You could walk through the entire funeral home and hardly know it’s there.”

Please share your thoughts below.

Ryan Thogmartin

CEO at DISRUPT Media and ConnectingDirector.com
Ryan Thogmartin is the Owner and CEO of DISRUPT Media. DISRUPT Media is a full service social media agency specializing in social media strategy, management and reporting for funeral companies. DISRUPT Media is the creator of the FUNERAL Social Design Process which is the only full service social media strategy program crafted specifically for the funeral profession.

Go to http://funeralsocial.com to find out more about the services we offer. Our clients who are apart of our FUNERAL Social Design Process are seeing an increase in post reach and engagement of over 300%.

Ryan is also the founder of ConnectingDirectors.com. ConnectingDirectors.com is the leading online daily publication for funeral professionals with a reader base of over 45,000 of the most elite and forward-thinking professionals in the profession. With ConnectingDirectors.com Ryan has created a global community through an online platform allowing funeral professionals to Stay Current. Stay Informed and Stay Elite.
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