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New Funeral Trend…Starbucks?

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.
From CalebWilde.com:

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.


Read the full article from Caleb here: http://www.calebwilde.com/2012/07/funeral-home-in-s-c-opening-starbucks-franchise/
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.”

Read full release from ABCNews.com herehttp://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2012/07/starbucks-to-open-inside-funeral-home/
Please share your thoughts below.

Ryan Thogmartin

Ryan Thogmartin is founder and CEO of two innovative companies. Connecting Directors LLC (www.connectingdirectors.com) and Disrupt Media Group, LLC (www.disruptmg.com). ConnectingDirectors.com is the premier progressive online publication for funeral professionals. ConnectingDirectors.com is a thriving global publication with a reader base of over 15,000 of the most elite and forward-thinking professionals in the industry.

Disrupt Media Group, LLC is a social media marketing solutions firm. Disrupt MG focuses on proficiently assisting small businesses in creating engaging social media marketing strategies. Without a social media marketing strategy companies and brands are just aimlessly posting without any coherent direction. Social media marketing is more than just having a Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube page; businesses have to have a strategy to telling their story, one that opens the door and starts the conversation.

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  • Robert

    I think this article is another sad testimony for funeral service. Why not put a Subway next to the Starbucks? And by the way, Starbucks does not taste that good. Why not commercialize the funeral home some more, rent it out for dances, put a bar in the place and have live bands? Make it into a banquet hall while you’re at it. This is another bad day for funeral service.

    • alan creedy

      Robert, I respectfully disagree. Although, I am also aware that Mcqueen’s did this years ago. While not yet complete, recent research through the Funeral Service Foundation indicates our facilities are perceived as consumer unfriendly and therefore barriers. Starbucks can help us break down public perceptions and become more “user friendly”. Flanner and Buchanan has been doing weddings and wedding receptions in their Washington Street facility for more than 5 years and is typically booked out more than 18 months.

      • Tim O’Brien

        I’m in Alan’s camp. Beyond personal experiences and those of friends, from the pre-survey challenges and questions that Ryan and I got in step one of the survey we’re doing it appears that more and more Funeral Directors are viewing themselves as Celebrants of a life well lived not just traditional Funeral Directors.
        And, if the public changes, Funeral Directors must change to suit the needs and wants of their community. It is not up to the community to change to fit the Funeral Director’s ideas. Tim
        P.S. I believe David Shipper now has Starbucks, complete with the sign!

  • JackM

    Sounds like Robinson Funeral Home has a very large facility, the kind we sometimes wish we had, and can locate a Starbucks, maybe a flower shop and a monument company at one end with the chapel at the other end along with separate entrances. Why not allow customers to come in and order flowers for weddings, flowers for services conducted at other funeral homes, or granite edging for their home driveways. Why not?

    Like the coffee there, along with the honestly genuine staff providing it, and have a chance to ask questions or have conversations not available at your local cafe? We as funeral directors are in the business of creating experiences for our clients in addition to providing needed services. If we want to keep up with the changes which are occurring in today’s industry, we need to adapt and expand opportunities for both our present and prospective clients. It seems like Robinson’s priorities are not necessarily profit-driven, but are service-oriented offerings that today’s consumers desire.

    I can imagine, for the regular Starbuck’s customer, it won’t be long until they are saying the staff at the Robinson Starbucks is more caring and considerate then at the other locations, that is, if Robinson stays on top of their training and monitoring of the service provided there.

  • djackson

    Robert. Sad testimonial? Only for those working with blinders on or those hoping for the good ol’ days to return……

    Is your funeral home hallowed ground that is considered sacred? Do you work within a different set of parameters than other businesses who are open to trying new ideas? Opening a Starbucks is a great idea and let’s be honest it isn’t like setting up an exotic dancer club on-site, now is it.

    Consumers are changing and anything that a FD can do to keep in step should be welcomed and watched by the industry because we all know that we cannot continue on the path of atrophy we are currently on.

    With all due respect, you should take your eye off the rear view mirror, get with the times and loosen your tie a tad and maybe even have a double latte with whipped cream.

  • Amanda

    I live and work in Seattle. While sitting to make arrangements with people, almost everyone has a Starbucks in hand. This is a brilliant idea. I just wish my funeral home would have thought of it first.

  • Oops

    Not the first in the USA, Turrintine Jackson Morrow, in McKinney Texas has had a staffed Starbucks at their location for 2 years. Don’t you just hate it when someone beats you to the punch…

  • Restnnpeace

    How tasteless. Many businesses including several funeral homes I have been in offer Starbucks at a do it yourself coffee bar. The only thing different is that the coffee is free. The is a tactless, clueless thing to do. I can see it now….a family member needs a cup of coffee and a place to rest and relax for a couple minutes. “Yes sir, down the hall and to the right. BTW They take credit and debit cards too.” Why people would think this is good idea is beyond me. Give the people a damn cup of coffee or tea and don’t be so cheap. This is a new low. And BTW this isnt the first. I will post a link I saved with remarks from the last clueless funeral home that did it a couple of years ago.
    Rstnnpeace

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