We all bemoan the chain store onslaught for destroying the unique character of NYC, but a recent study reveals that while they may be bland, chain establishments can actually provide a better sense of community than their locally-owned counterparts. Anthropologists from the University of West Virginia studied three local Boston coffee shops and three Starbucks outlets in an attempt to determine which type of store offered a better social environment. The team used five criteria for their study, including how welcoming the store was, available amenities and the general atmosphere. Their somewhat surprising conclusion: in almost all areas, Starbucks beat out the independent coffee shops.

The study notes that "baristas and staff at independent cafes were not as friendly as those at Starbucks." Staffers at the chain knew regulars by name and anticipated their orders; at the independent shops, baristas were "more aloof" and didn't assist customers as much as their green-clad counterparts. Additionally, Starbucks offered more in the way of amenities, including ample and conveniently-arranged seating options, plus availability of power sources and free Wi-Fi. As we know, independent coffee shops in the city can be more conservative with their amenities.

Shades of grey exist within these types of studies—nobody would deny that sometimes Starbucks isn't the most welcoming place. Then again, we've all been on the receiving end of a condescending stare from an all-knowing bearded barista. Plus it makes sense that Starbucks offers increased amenities considering the money at their disposal; locally-owned shops don't have the corporate dollars to underwrite your Netflix obsession. It really comes down to what's more important to you: cheerful service in a well-stocked but sterile environment? Or an offbeat vibe but with indifferent service and rules about your laptop? Or maybe it's all about the product.

[h/t The Dish]