Back in August, it was announced that Capital One had bought the old Nathans building and would construct a “Capital One Cafe” in the space. The concept of a Bank/coffee shop is an odd one, so many didn’t know what to expect. GM just got back from a visit to San Francisco where he came upon a Capital One Cafe. And he can report that it is indeed odd.
As you can see above, the space was essentially open. About 15 to 20 people were sitting in the cafe doing whatever it is that people sitting around cafes do (shopping and reading Twitter, probably). There was a Peet’s Coffee stand inside providing the drinks. (It’s hard to walk two blocks in San Francisco without passing a Peet’s Coffee shop, by the way).
It was, basically, a not super comfy coffee shop. The odd part was the group of people standing around a table at the center of the room. It looked like some sort of a door prize game they were running that had a wheel of fortune element. The game was clearly a way to sell banking services. And there were other bank-related informational poster and such around.
Corporations are always trying to break into “cool” scenes like South by Southwest to set up shop and pitch variable rate mortgages or credit cars or whatever. It seems like this is their attempt to bring people to them for the same outcome. All in all it seems like a low payoff for Capital One. And considering that they paid $50 million for this property, the likelihood it will ever turn a profit on this model seems slim. But since a secondary (if not primary) goal of these cafes is simply brand awareness (i.e. advertising) then how many people sign up for banking products in the cafe itself may not matter much.