Quick pint in Starbucks?

Rosie Baker is Marketing Week’s specialist on sustainability and retail.


A quick pint in Starbucks might sound a bit weird to UK consumers, but if you live in downtown Chicago or Southern California, you could be sitting down to enjoy a glass of wine or beer in Starbucks.

Starbucks has started serving beer and wine at a number of US stores as part of a trial that could eventually be replicated over here.

A spokesperson for the brand in the UK says there are no plans for similar ventures in the UK, but in the past, a number of other initiatives have launched in the UK after trials in the US.

Its lunchtime Bistro Box food offer started out it the US before being launched here, ditto its digital efforts such as partnering with Apple to give away free downloads.

While a US initiative isn’t necessarily fit for all Starbucks’ global markets, the chain has a tendency to try something out in the US, and if it works then roll it out with some tweaks for each market. The recently launched loyalty scheme is an example of that. The Starbucks Digital Network in partnership with Yahoo! is likely to be the next.

Starbucks is brave for trying to extend its reach into new areas and attract evening clientele by offering “more options to relax”, but I don’t think booze is the right way.

As much as Starbucks is offering the beverages as a responsible addition to its coffee menu, allowing adults to make a choice as to whether to enjoy an early evening tipple instead of a mocha latte, there is always the risk that some customers may not turn out to be all that responsible. Starbucks could turn from the cosy coffee infused safe haven, into an unwholesome drinking den.

If I’m spending an hour having coffee and catching up with a good book on one of Starbucks armchairs, or taking advantage of its free wifi to do some work, or host a professional meeting, I don’t really want a gaggle of tipsy wine drinkers or afternoon drunks to be bumping into my table and altering the atmosphere.

This is what Starbucks won’t be able to control.

By attracting one crowd of people looking for a glass of wine instead of coffee, Starbucks risks alienating the very coffee drinkers that seek it out for that reason.

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