Caribou appears in Starbucks’ rearview with drive-thru concept
Coffee shops in the U.S. are established as places to work, to read or just to hang out and talk — so much so that Starbucks started referring to itself as a “third place” away from home or the office some time ago. Starbucks’ competitor Caribou Coffee, however, is now launching a concept that caters exclusively to the other side of the coffee-drinking spectrum — customers who don’t want to stick around.
The small-format stores, called Caribou Cabins, have drive-thru windows and walk-up service counters so people can place and receive their orders, but no interior seating. The company said in a statement, “Caribou Cabins capture the brand’s iconic Northwoods feel that guests love, and are designed to deliver on guest convenience, speed, and efficiency. Perfect for fueling life’s everyday adventures…fast!”
The new concept will begin its rollout with five stores in Minnesota, and is the brainchild of John Butcher, who has been the chain’s CEO for two years. The Caribou Cabins concept comes as part of a larger expansion of main-line locations.
The Caribou Coffee website currently lists 455 locations in the U.S., 288 of which are in Minnesota.
Caribou Coffee’s larger competitors, also including U.K.-based Costa Coffee and McCafe, have been trying to better meet the needs of the grab-it-and-go crowd, as well.
Last year, Starbucks announced that it would boost its drive-thru experience by opening a serious of drive-thru only locations without indoor seating throughout the U.S., according to Consumer Affairs.
Starbucks’ drive-thru experience and mobile ordering in some ways became casualties of the chain’s success, growing so popular that customers began to experience frustrating bottlenecks at peak hours. This led the chain to open a mobile pay-only location at its headquarters in Seattle in 2017.
Caribou Coffee isn’t the only distant competition that Starbucks might want to keep an eye on in the rearview mirror. Both Dunkin’ Donuts and Tim Hortons have been experimenting with drive-thru concepts.
- Welcome to the Cabin! – Caribou Coffee
- Caribou Unveils New No-Seat Small Store Concept, Caribou Cabins – Daily Coffee News
- Revenue of selected leading coffeehouse chains worldwide in 2015 (in million U.S. dollars) – Statista
- All Caribou Coffee Locations – Caribou Coffee
- Starbucks wants to improve its drive thru strategy – Consumer Affairs
- Will mobile order and pay only stores improve Starbucks’ operational performance? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How would you rate the pros and cons of a no-seating coffee concept such as Caribou Cabins? What do you think of the expansion potential?