For forty-one years, the Starbucks Coffee Company has been loyal to its customers by serving what some regard to be the highest-quality coffee in the world. On January 23, Starbucks announced plans to bring a new concept to their stores by also serving beer, wine, and premium foods in multiple stores by the end of 2012. The idea was first introduced at a Seattle location in October 2010, and it has since expanded to four other regions. A company spokesperson has confirmed that Atlanta, the Chicago area, Southern California, and the Pacific Northwest are the focus of this trial.
In the current trial stores, customers are able to order from a selection of beer and wine every evening after 4 p.m. In order to avoid abuse of the new Starbucks menu items, employees who work in the stores that serve beer and wine have been told to refuse service to anyone who is visibly intoxicated. Additionally, Starbucks plans to avoid allowing patrons to become overly intoxicated by neglecting to add liquor to their list of available alcohols as well as by training employees to spot and report behavior associated with intoxication.
“[This idea] is a natural progression for us as we are always looking for ways to enhance the Starbucks Experience based on what our customers are telling us,” said Clarice Turner, Senior Vice President, U.S. Operations, in an interview with Zach Hutson, Starbucks press.
Some customers are concerned that the addition of alcohol to the menu could affect the cozy Starbucks atmosphere.
“I would have to go to one of the trial stores to be sure, but I don’t think I would like the addition,” said Celia Mancini, a prospective Florida State University student. “When I go to Starbucks, I go to relax with a good book or to study. I don’t want to be distracted by people drinking or the smell of beer. Why didn’t they just create a spin-off store with the same feel instead of merging the two?”
Starbucks, however, has emphasized their commitment to the coffee and the coffeehouse atmosphere that has made them world-famous.
“As we introduce new expressions of the Starbucks Experience, we’ve stayed true to our original vision and values, with the same commitment to premium quality coffee, passionate partners and a rich customer experience,” a company spokesperson explained in an email interview. “Expanding our offerings into wine, beer and a premium food menu is another example of how we are enhancing the coffeehouse experience throughout the day and evening. We recognize the importance of continuously evolving with our customers’ interests, lifestyles and values in order to stay relevant over the long term.”
Some think the Starbucks evolution is a smart company move, and are looking forward to seeing how it progresses.
“I like the idea. It makes sense to continue to find ways to expand and grow. To me, it’s a way to target different markets during slower parts of the day like late afternoons and evenings when people want a place to go relax after a long day,” said John O’Mera, a business marketing graduate from the University of West Florida.
Whether or not Starbucks decides to extend this service to stores beyond those in the trial cities will be determined after the company evaluates the results from the current coffee shops going through the trial. Until then, Starbucks will continue to research their different locations in an effort to determine which cities might be next to taste their new alcoholic menu items.