Sense of place – Bing Sutt Corner, Hong Kong

| May 26, 2013 | 1 Comment

Sense of place – Bing Sutt Corner, Hong Kong. All to often, we go about our daily routines unaware – taking little note of the ‘place’ and its surroundings. Think of your obligatory coffee stop during the workday, most likely a short walk to the same venue without much consideration as to what makes the place special or unique. In the past, places thought as special were known as ‘bing sutt’ (Cantonese for ‘ice-room’); Hong Kong’s 1950’s and 60’s-era coffeehouses frequented by locals who enjoyed gathering over affordable western-style coffee, tea and cake fare.

Traditional Chinese Coffeehouse – ‘Bing Sutt’ (Photo: Wok)

Nowadays, look-alike café chains have largely replaced these traditional and characteristic coffeehouses – the focus has shifted toward costly designer beverages, and endless variations catering to your personal coffee fixation. With over 100 locations in Hong Kong, leading this trend is Starbucks – the largest coffeehouse company in the world.

Not surprisingly, one easily looses a sense of place when each venue starts to look-alike; even the ordering of the daily brew, memorized and spoken without deliberation. Thankfully, a reversal in trend may well be underway – enter ‘Bing Sutt Corner’ on Duddell Street in Central (Hong Kong), and take note of a rather unique Starbucks. Opened in 2009, this coffeehouse was designed in collaboration with local G.O.D. founder Douglas Young to pay homage to its predecessors – bringing back a piece of history and with it a reminder of Hong Kongers long tradition for meeting at a special place.

‘Special Place’ – Starbucks Bing Sutt Corner, Central HKG (Photo: Catherine Karnow)

Those who routinely frequent a Starbucks in any of its 106 locations in Hong Kong would certainly take note, that this coffeehouse resembles little of the otherwise stock-standard Starbucks décor and aesthetics. Tiled floors, colorful wall decorations, diner-style wooden booths, and old metal windows looking onto photographic streetscapes of its historic past. Take a closer look, and you’ll discover traditional birdcages hanging from the ceiling, memorabilia behind glass and posters explaining the ‘bing sutt’ story of the past.

Starbucks Bing Sutt Corner in Duddell Street, Central, Hong Kong (Photo: Starbucks)

No longer unaware, patrons are quick to take a ‘pic’ – keen to share an unexpected moment of being in a unique and special place. This discovery proving a welcoming change from the otherwise manufactured consistency of chain-styled coffeehouse operations – even the menu has authentic ‘bing sutt’ items such as the Coffee egg tart and rustic bun with thick cut butter.

Fortunately, Starbucks and other fast-food chains are taking note of consumers wishing to experience a sense of place – experimental concept stores are starting to pop up, helping customers once again become aware of their surroundings.

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Category: Brand, Dining Experiences, Food & Wine

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PhD in Consumer Engagement - the engagement of customers with one another, with a company or a brand. The initiative for engagement can be either consumer- or company-led and the medium of engagement can be on or offline. With a strong focus on fostering consumer experience innovation, I seek out brands, product, service and experience providers that thrive to define the art of customer engagement.

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