Central Perk

Central Perk is a fictional coffee shop in New York City's Greenwich Village. It is situated near Monica's apartment, and was one of the focal points of the popular television sitcom Friends. It was one of the show's main sets in which the six main characters spent much of their free time conversing. One of the main reasons for this was the fact that it was, as Joey proves in The One with George Stephanopoulos, less than 100 steps from his apartment, counting 97 steps from the apartment to the inside of the shop. It is based on Cholmondeley's, a coffee shop and lounge in Usen Castle at Brandeis University, the alma mater of the show's creators. The name is a play on words of 'Central Park' (referring to the park, also in New York) and 'perk', referring either to the stimulation gained from coffee consumption or the coffee percolation process.

As of April 2006, the Central Perk set is still set up at the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, California, although it has been moved from its former location into a smaller building. Also the set has been downsized to about 2/3 the size. There is also a company store on the lot called Central Perk. It contains a Starbucks, a Jamba Juice and a Ben & Jerrys ice cream, as well as selling Warner Brothers merchandise (CDs, DVDs, WB show related merchandise, etc.).

Central Perk has also inspired a coffee shop franchise by the same name that mirrors the style and aesthetics of the fictional one portrayed in Friends. There is a Central Perk in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Geneva (Switzerland). The Dubai chain store's spokesman is James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther. There is also a "Phoenix Perk" (a pun on Phoenix Park) in Dublin.


The space was formerly occupied by the gang's old hangout, a bar. Central Perk is owned by a man named Terry (played by Max Wright), who according to Rachel and Phoebe is a 'jerk'. Terry was rarely seen and left most of the running of his coffee shop to Gunther, who became a permanent fixture in the shop, due to his being the only cast member on set who could work the huge espresso machine in the back.

Layout and furniture

Throughout the coffee shop are small tables with chairs that extras on the show usually occupy. These, from the main camera angle, are behind the large orange sofa in the middle of the shop. The green chair on the right, the coffee table, and the table and chair on the left are nearly always used as the main setting for any scenes in Central Perk.

In the earlier episodes, irrespective of how busy the coffee shop became, those seats were always available. The writers turned this into a joke and, in the first episode of season three, the six main characters arrive in the shop to find their seats taken. They then look at each other, puzzled, and walk out.

The artwork in the back of Central Perk was changed every three episodes but the layout of the furniture remained largely unchanged for the entire series.

The "Sexy Orange Couch"

The most prominent fixture of Central Perk is the large orange couch that the characters usually sit on. It usually seats four of the Friends at one time. One of the others then occupies the green chair on the right and, if all six are present, there is a table with one chair to the left that seats the last person. No other people in the coffee house sit on the sofa, in one instance, Chandler is seen sitting reading, when a young man comes in and goes to sit down on the sofa, Chandler promptly ushers him away saying "No no no no no" but in one episode the six friends walk in but there is already another six friends sitting talking on the counch and chairs, so they leave upset and stunned. The couch is also seen in the opening credits of the show in front of the large fountain the cast of Friends dance in. At the end of the credits all of the friends sit on the couch at once as Monica turns off the lamp to the right.

Over the 10 seasons of the show, nothing was spilled on the couch and no marks were to be seen. However, on the night of filming of The Last One (the final episode), Jennifer Aniston's pen, that she was using to sign autographs while sitting on the couch, burst and there is now a large ink stain on the back of the couch..

Wait staff

Rachel Green worked as a waitress at Central Perk during the first three seasons of the show. She regularly got orders mixed up, put items in the wrong places, and neglected to clean the espresso machine. In an early episode, She brings all the other friends their orders, saying them out and then walking off. However as soon as she leaves, all the friends exchange drinks, clearly showing Rachel had it all wrong. She blamed her poor performance on the fact she didn't care about the job. Rachel eventually quit to pursue a fashion career in the third season, in the episode titled The One Where Rachel Quits.

Joey Tribbiani became a waiter at the coffee shop when money was tight, needing another job while his acting career was at a standstill. He was as terrible as Rachel, partly because he felt he had gone backward on the hierarchy of occupations. He had problems with giving out free drinks and other products of Central Perk such as muffins to the beautiful women who came into the store, and when Gunther forced him to stop, he pretended as if it were their birthdays so they could still receive free food.

When Joey first started Rachel offered him some advice on waiting at Central Perk:

  • A smile goes a long way
  • The customer is always right
  • If a customer is rude, give him or her a "sneezemuffin" (a complimentary muffin which you sneeze on)


Phoebe Buffay was also a regular fixture in Central Perk, and played songs such as Smelly Cat to often bemused audiences. Phoebe was, at one point, replaced by Stephanie Schiffer (played by Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders), a professional who was hired by Terry. It is also shown in The One with Phoebe's Ex-partner that Central Perk holds open mic nights.

Ross also played the keyboard at the coffee shop in one episode, however, he ended up emptying Central Perk of customers and forcing Monica to wear ear plugs as she sat on the couch "listening" to him. Phoebe, on the other hand, greatly enjoyed his music.


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