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.
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.
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..
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:
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.