Rachel works as a waitress at Central Perk from the start of the show till half-way through Season 3. Being pretty much a spoiled, self-centered individual throughout this period of her life, Rachel clearly shows ineptitude at work, mixing up orders, neglecting her waitressing duties, and showing little care about where everything goes and how it should be done. Ironically, in The One With The Flashback, it is revealed that prior to getting this job, while out with her friends one night, she had responded to a waiter getting their drinks mixed up by remarking: "how hard is it to get a couple of drinks?". When Joey starts working at Central Perk, Rachel mentions that she would sneeze on the food of any customers who were rude to her.
It quickly becomes clear that Rachel does not care for her job at Central Perk, only for her financial income. However, she does try for other job opportunities in fashion (mostly during Season 1), with little success. In Season 3, she decides to pursue the fashion business again after Gunther assigns her to re-training, quitting her waitressing job to work with Fortunata Fashions, then moving on to Bloomingdale's.
Joey becomes a waiter at the coffee shop half-way through Season 6. His acting career being at a standstill, Joey is tight on money, so much that he can't afford paying for coffee. Gunther decides to let him work there.
Like Rachel, Joey shows ineptitude at the job. Unlike Rachel, however, this is mostly due to his immaturity coinciding with the house's policies.
However, later in the season, Joey's acting career takes a step forward when he gets the lead role in Mac & C.H.E.E.S.E.. This makes him quit his waitering job, which he does without mentioning anything to Gunther. Gunther, however, points this out to him in The One With The Ring, and that he was going to fire Joey anyway.
Layout and furnitureThroughout 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, apparently by Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, the show's creators. They then look at each other, dejected, and walk out.
The artwork in the back of Central Perk was changed every three episodes (including images of King Kong and Uncle Sam), but the layout of the furniture remained largely unchanged for the entire series.
The 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 sits the last person. Rarely is anyone else ever seen on the couch and the guys consider it their own. In one instance, Chandler is seen sitting reading, when a young man comes in and goes to sit down on the green chair, only for Chandler to promptly usher him away. Another example is when Rachel complains about sitting by the window instead of the couch, or when the Friends came in only to see the couch taken, and leave. In The One With The Bullies two bullies 'steal' the seating area, and also steal Chandler's hat. In 'The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion', Robin Williams and Billy Crystal come in the coffee house and ask the cast to move over. They are sitting there having a personal conversation, which the cast overhears.
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.
- During season 1 and 2 we see Terry the owner, in episodes "The One Where Underdog Gets Away" and "The One With The Baby On The Bus". He is also mentioned in the Season 3 episode "The One Where Rachel Quits".
- In The One with the Flashback we find out that the coffee house was a bar before it became Central Perk and the friends hung out there.
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, a professional who was hired by Terry.
In The One With Rachel's Sister, Joey says the next prices:
- Muffin and espresso: $4.50
- Double latte: $2.75
- Coffee and a scone: $4.25
- Herbal tea: $1.25