Starbucks boosts evening trade with beer and wine

I'll have a skinny cappuccino and a pint of lager, please, barista. Yep, Starbucks has come over all boozy.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

The current financial climate has seen many losers over the past year. Starbucks is not one of them. The coffee giant is preparing its results for the first quarter of 2012 as we speak (they’re out Thursday) but, looking at the last lot, things are going swimmingly. Revenues topped $3bn over 14 weeks to October, up 7% on the same period in 2010. Operating margin was also nice and fat: in Q4, it stood at 14.8%, up 70 basis points on the previous year.

Rather than rest on its laurels, however, Starbucks is on the look out for yet more revenue streams. Its latest big idea: to sell beer and wine in a handful of cafes in Atlanta and Southern California and drum up more evening trade. This news isn’t as big as you may think – Starbucks has been selling booze in Seattle and Portland for a year.

The move reveals a new focus for the brand: evening punters. No longer will Starbucks be solely the preserve of knackered white collar workers and yummy mummies looking for a morning caffeine fix. It’s not just a place for meetings on the fly, with Wi-Fi and a lemon and poppy seed muffin. Now that the soft launch has proved successful – no religious extremists have complained, no comets have fallen from the sky - the roll-out continues. Starbucks is going to become a night-time hotspot, an alternative to a few jars at your local.

The concept could be particularly successful in Britain (although, licensing issues might prove a bit of a hurdle). Our alcohol-fuelled social scene often leaves teetotallers in the cold of an evening: you can catch a movie, grab a bite or get a frozen yogurt but that’s about it. Starbucks will welcome booze-hounds and coffee addicts alike with open arms. The chain is even taking tentative steps toward a more sophisticated menu, with hot flatbreads and cheese plates supplementing the standard sarnies and pastries.

It’ll be a while before Starbucks’ late-night, boozy openings land in the UK (imagine what the lock-ins would be like) but the trend for later opening hours, extended food and drink menus and alcohol options has already taken root in the US and is bound to travel across the Atlantic.

Get a move on Schultz. MT is already holding its breath for a Starbucks espresso martini…

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