PICK THE RIGHT ONE. Make sure you tell the person you’re meeting with the exact location and give specific landmarks. Check out locations here on the Starbucks website. Email a google map (maps.google.com) to be sure.
DIFFERENT LOCATIONS HAVE DIFFERENT VIBES. For business meetings, some locations are better because they have more tables or more quiet corners. Some are better to “see and be seen” with open floor plans and outside seating facing a major street corner. If you’re traveling, ask your hotel staff or the person you’re meeting with for the best location.
PICK THE RIGHT TIME. Before or after the general business rush hours are best. 7:00 am is good, but 8:30am is not. 3:30pm is good, but 5:30pm is not. Try to avoid the 10:30am coffee break and 1:00pm crowd if possible. This ensures shorter lines, and a quieter atmosphere. 2:30pm to 3:00pm is my “sweet spot”.
GET THERE EARLY TO STAKE OUT A TABLE. Place your bag or briefcase down on the table so you can keep an eye on it while you order. The best are the “four-top” tables that let you spread out a bit. Watch where the sun is shining so you’re not baking later in the meeting. Your back to a wall is the best position since you have command of the room, and you minimize the casual eavesdropper.
NO COMFY CHAIRS. This is a bit counterintuitive since you want your guest to be comfortable, but the overstuffed chairs make it hard to meet someone else. The space between you is far greater, which means you have to lean forward. This is actually uncomfortable, which negates the point in the first place.
NO MORE THAN FOUR PARTICIPANTS. Finding tables and room noise becomes a factor at five people. Every location I’ve been in is set up for no more than four to a table in any case. If you have to meet with five or more, try to get two tables outside and push them together.
FIND A POWER OUTLET. This is the one premium item that I wouldn’t mind paying for since they are in such short supply. My laptop battery doesn’t hold it’s charge anymore so power is essential. If you’re giving a software demo or Powerpoint, for obvious reasons a plug will eliminate any power embarassments.
ORDER BEFORE YOU SIT DOWN. Stand in line when you first walk in the door so that you can get your order in and not break the momentum of the meeting. If the person you’re meeting is already there, acknowledge them and ask if they’d like anything while you’re up.
MEETING SETTER PAYS. This is the same rule in business lunch. Whoever called the meeting should offer to pay. Sure it’s a nominal amount, but it respects the other person’s time and effort.
SPACE OUT MEETINGS. Give yourself a ten to fifteen minute buffer between meetings to stretch, use the restroom, and make a phone call before your next meeting. This is especially important if you think that the first meeting might go long or the second meeting might be a competitor with the first. It allows you to say goodbye and welcome your next meeting with a fresh perspective without having to make your second meeting wait around for your first to wrap up.
Update: Great Post about saving money over multiple meetings at Starbucks: http://www.scottburkett.com/index.php/entrepreneurship/2006-10-22/bootstrapping-the-starbucks-way.html#comments