Starbucks was built on the premise of delivering coffee-based drinks to consumers looking for a third place beyond home and work to congregate. The approach has worked remarkably well over the years and helped the company drive traffic, particularly during the mornings. But what to do evenings when consumers want to socialize without the caffeine rush? Why, sell beer and wine, of course.
According to reports, Starbucks is expanding a six-location West Coast test of beer and wine sales to as many as 25 locations around the country by the end of the year. Sold by the glass, beer goes for $5 and wines for $7 to $9. Starbucks will also be expanding its food menu at beer and wine locations to include focaccia with olive oil and fruit-and-cheese plates.
The key to this move, as a Bloomberg News piece points out, is whether Starbucks can adjust its menu without alienating its core customer base.
Bill Chidley, senior vice president at Interbrand, told Bloomberg that Starbucks' move would be seen as "controversial," but, "it makes sense if you think of the way that McDonald's grew its business by going into breakfast."
Some Starbucks customers interviewed by the Los Angeles Times were resistant to the new concept.
"If I wanted a beer, I'd go to a bar," Doug Tanaka, told the Times. "I bring my grandkids in here. I don't want to have to deal with a drunk if I'm having coffee."
Will Starbucks' experiment with beer and wine sales be successful or unsuccessful?