RSS
Starbucks' gamble on beer and wine: Will it work?
In an effort to keep up with the times, the 40-year-old coffee giant may be turning to booze
The "highly recognizable brand" tests the alcoholic waters with a wine-bar coffee house.
The "highly recognizable brand" tests the alcoholic waters with a wine-bar coffee house.
CC BY: Andrea
L

ast week, Starbucks announced it was ordering baristas to slow down to boost the quality of its brews in the face of consumer complaints. Up next: Starbucks executives are testing a revamped and redesigned marketing approach at one Seattle location. The test store — designed to generate more business after 2 p.m. — serves beer, wine, and gourmet delicacies from a local chef in a stylishly distressed, environmentally responsible building more evocative of a favorite local haunt than a chain outlet. If customers respond, Starbucks plans to expand the approach to other locations. Do java fans want booze options? (Watch a CBS report about Starbucks's new venture)

It's a huge risk: This is a "serious gamble for a chain that's spent four decades and billions of dollars establishing a highly recognized brand," says Bruce Horovitz in USA Today. With its muted colors and dim lighting, the new Starbucks-cum-neighborhood-bar isn't instantly recognizable, and the new design "doesn't come cheap." While this could be a big step forward for the brand, it's worth noting that "some skeptics say Starbucks is too familiar to be hip."
"Starbucks remakes its future with an eye on beer and wine"

It's a good business move: The new wine-bar approach is a "great strategy for developing a whole new after-work business," says Carol Tice at BNET. Independent coffeehouses have long morphed into wine bars when night falls, so this makes perfect sense. "These are highly compatible businesses, and adding booze will allow Starbucks to grow its nighttime revenue, which currently is usually… nothing."
"Why Starbucks' New Wine-Bar Attitude Works"

And there's a definite need for it: Sure, "ordering beer at Starbucks... doesn't feel quite right — yet," says Derek Thompson at The Atlantic, but there's a real need for what they're offering. "The demand for quieter alcohol-serving joints (that aren't sit-down restaurants where we'll feel guilty ordering only liquids) feels strangely underserved," and "that's an argument for Starbucks'... strategy to work."
"Starbucks to start serving beer and wine"

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week