Starbucks’ Bold New Room Set

The chain's latest coffeehouse on the Las Vegas Strip features an unusual seating arrangement — and offers a lesson for meeting design.

ballys_outsideIt can be hard to surprise visitors to the Las Vegas Strip, where neon and bling predominate. And if you’re Starbucks, it’s even more challenging to change things up when your brand has 35 locations on a four-mile stretch of the Strip.

Yet Starbucks’ latest Las Vegas location, at the Grand Bazaar Shops in front of Bally’s Las Vegas, still manages to turn heads. Outside, its neon facade is all about dazzle. Inside, the 3,200-square-foot store is a rustic-industrial space with neutral tones and tiered, stadium-style seating that faces “the theater of our coffee bar,” said store designer Erich Mele. 


When customers tire of watching baristas whip up lattes, macchiatos, and frappuccinos, they can turn their attention to Starbucks-centric images and video projected onto a 150-square-foot central movie screen. 

While the grandstand seating evokes sporting events — a boxing match, maybe? — Mele said the design was actually inspired by the terraces of coffee-growing regions. Either way, it’s a unique room set meant to distinguish the location from dozens of others nearby. 

Another Starbucks U.S. store designer, Justine McHart, said she views each new Starbucks on the Strip as a challenge. “On the Las Vegas Strip, a customer can literally see all 35 stores in one visit, so it’s really important to differentiate each one,” she said. “We want people to feel the difference and generate buzz about our stores.”

When she’s planning a new coffeehouse, McHart will stay at the host hotel for a few days, soaking in its “ambiance and personality” to ensure that the new store mirrors or riffs off the venue that houses it. For the Starbucks inside Treasure Island Hotel & Casino, for example, that means burlap coffee sacks and antique maps reminiscent of a Robert Louis Stevenson novel. At The LINQ Hotel & Casino, enormous gears echo the property’s observation wheel, and oblong wooden community tables call to mind the casino’s playing tables.


So, even if the menu stays the same from one Starbucks to the next, the customer’s experience is unique.

What’s the takeaway for planners? Customers (think event participants) know that they can expect a consistent level of quality in Starbucks’ offerings from store to store (think from one conference program to the next), but a thoughtful and creative approach to the environment (think innovative room set and use of meeting space) can go far to surprise and delight them.


Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch is associate editor of Convene.