Happy hour, anyone? Starbucks is making headlines after announcing plans to expand its alcohol and evening apps offering to more stores.
The model, which started in Seattle, has allowed Starbucks to evolve its menu beyond lattes and frappuccinos and into beer, wine and even truffle mac and cheese. Starbucks spokesperson Lisa Passé reported that over the next several years, the initiative will expand to thousands of locations, according to an article from USA Today. Approximately 40 Starbucks locations currently serve alcohol and gourmet apps.
After hearing this news, the RTP edit team shared their thoughts on Starbucks’ aggressive brand move. Their feedback is below:
Debbie Hauss, Editor-In-Chief: I think this move is brilliant for Starbucks, to expand its business in the evenings, when a lot of its core customers are finished drinking coffee for the day. It could be a great location for a women’s book club or just a relaxing meet-up. As long as it doesn’t become a raucous, loud party stop, I think the chain is on to something. It’s being tested in a limited number of stores in the Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Portland and Seattle areas, and Washington DC’s Dulles Airport. I imagine they won’t be able to offer it everywhere since some cities have a limit on liquor licenses, such as Montclair, NJ.
Alicia Fiorletta, Senior Editor: Providing a menu of “happy hour” style beverages and snacks will help Starbucks become top of mind for consumers throughout all hours of the day…not just in the mornings, afternoons or on weekends. People already gravitate to Starbucks, so why not give them more reasons to stick around? The coffee giant also has always released creative treats that are somewhat out of the ordinary. It will be fun to see the types of seasonal culinary offerings Starbucks has on hand as time goes on. Because Starbucks always takes an out-of-the-box approach to its menu, it may even become a go-to spot versus the other large bar chains.
Kim Zimmermann, Managing Editor: It is a good move for Starbucks, in theory, but in practice it might be a bit tricky to implement. Will baristas be checking ID? Liquor is a high-theft item, so will they have mechanisms in place to monitor inventory? What about liability for overserving a patron? These are all things that bar owners have to deal with, and Starbucks will as well if they want baristas to become barkeeps.
Glenn Taylor, Associate Editor: Starbucks is already such an established brand that it would be relatively easy to rope in a big portion of its loyal customer base for an extended period. With the addition of alcohol sales, at the very least, people are going to consider it as another option for happy hour. I think the menu expansion is actually beneficial from a marketing perspective in that it provides a slight difference to the usual evening meal provided at local establishments (bacon covered dates, anyone?)
Brian Anderson, Associate Editor: Adding alcohol into the mix of product offerings is slowly growing into a common trend among fast food restaurants. There are several Burger King “Whopper Bars” located in several parts of the U.S., while fast food chains like Sonic, White Castle and Chipotle have experimented or are currently experimenting with a small number of locations. From a revenue standpoint, it’s an awesome move. Offering alcohol can easily double the average amount customers spend per visit. As long as the baristas are able to adapt to their new duties (like checking IDs, preventing customers from being over-served), this can greatly boost Starbucks’ popularity and overall revenue.
What are your thoughts? Is expanding to happy hour a good move for Starbucks?