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More Starbucks Locations to Offer Wine and Beer

More Starbucks Locations to Offer Wine and Beer

The 'Starbucks Evenings' menu is expanding to new locations, including Dulles Airport

Your holiday stop at Starbucks — and even your airport run through Dulles International Airport — just got a bit sweeter. More locations are adding the "Starbucks Evenings" menu, with small plates, beer, and wine.

The Huffington Post reports on the new expansion; currently there are 16 stores in the Seattle (no surprise there), Portland, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles areas that have the Starbucks Evenings menus. Now, Dulles International Airport will be added to the list, along with other stores coming this season.

What exactly is on the menu? Some tasty bites, including rosemary and brown sugar cashews, truffle mac and cheese, bacon-wrapped dates with a balsamic glaze, and even chocolate fondue. More importantly, the wines (which vary by location) are selected by a Starbucks-employed sommelier. But as Orange County Register columnist Nancy Luna noted, it's easy to miss the Evenings menu due to a lack of signage, and few bottles of wine on display. "... The uninformed visitor would never know the café is selling alcohol," she wrote in her column. So take note, you residents of Seattle, Portland, and the like: ask your barista whether they're hiding some pinot noir behind the counter.


Starbucks Is About To Unleash 3,000 Wine Bars On America. We Tried One.

This past Wednesday, a Starbucks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, attempted to slide into the borough’s cool kids club with their new Starbucks Evenings program. After 4 p.m., along with the usual coffee menu, they now offer a separate “evening” menu accompanied by a wine list and a craft beer selection. In a city where small business is the lifeblood of a neighborhood, I decided to check out this endeavor to see if it stacked up against the local competition. Also, being a wine bar/restaurant owner myself, and having built and maintained a wine program for some years now, I was curious to find out how Starbucks mixed its Evenings idea with the current coffee-centric atmosphere.

The first thing I noticed was that this wasn’t your average Starbucks: clearly, this location caters to Williamsburg by crooning the hipster aesthetic and doing away with the normal franchised look. The space is huge with a large tall communal table in the center and soft grey leather-bound benches along the wall. The wooden tables aim to have that “reclaimed” feel to them. There is the requisite exposed brick and chalkboard paint everywhere with clever greetings etched in trendy fonts, as well as invitations to coffee tastings (that’s a first). The staff is also different. Gone are the green aprons and black billed caps. In their place are slick black fabric aprons and every noggin is festooned with straw fedoras and golf caps. They’ve got the hipster uniform down.

The vision here, it seems, is that just as Starbucks has become a gathering place for offsite business meetings and screenwriter/novel publishing hopefuls to slurp down caffeine, it can also be an evening incubator with a more adult feel. Say you want to hold a book club meeting and your apartment is too hot. Come to Starbucks, have a glass of wine or two and a cheese plate and discuss. Sounds like a nice idea, right?

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The thing is, ordering off the Evenings menu is a little different. I am not sure how long it takes some folks to order a coffee concoction, but wine and food just isn’t the same. For some it takes a few minutes to look over the offerings. If I want a Lange Estate Pinot Noir, am I going to go for the Artichoke flatbread or a cheese plate? Maybe I’m in the mood for the Erath Chardonnay from Oregon. Should I go for the bacon wrapped dates or the truffled popcorn? Both? They have ten unique food items for the Evenings program and ten wines, five whites (one sparkling) and five reds. Am I just too much of a wine geek that I want to briefly ponder my options?

It’s a bit anxiety-producing when you have a line of people waiting to order their regular coffee, and you want some time to choose between options. Those impatient eyes boring into you from behind really don’t inspire calm. So I found myself blurting out an order and hoping it worked: a glass of Pinot Noir, a cheese plate and an artichoke goat cheese flatbread please. I gave my name and was asked to wait in the same area as all the other coffee drinkers.

Waiting for my order I looked around and realized I was the only one that had taken advantage of the Starbucks Evenings. Sure, it was only about a half hour into the opening, but damn. The place was packed and almost every table was occupied by a Brooklynite with a laptop, and no beer or wine in sight. My name was called as a barista walked onto the floor and offered me my order, a wooden tray with two plates and a stemless glass of Pinot tucked between. And this is where things got a bit weird.

When you order a Frappuccino and want to find a spot to sip and enjoy, all you have in your hand is a cup. I, on the other hand, was walking with two plates balanced precariously on each side of a tray that was too small for said plates, with a wine glass balanced in between. It felt very school cafeteria. Here I was, the only person with booze, trying to find a spot to sit among a sea of Powerbooks. It was like being the new kid in class self-consciously searching for a place to have lunch, away from the various cliques. And in true high school form, as I walked around the floor scoping a seat, I was getting the hairy eyeball from almost everywhere I looked. ‘Don’t you sit next to me’ those eyes said, ‘I am doing something very important here on this mac of mine and I don’t need some boozer next to me sipping wine and eating cheese. You might spill that alcoholic red juice all over me.’ Weird.

‘I’m a grown-ass man’ I told myself, and strolled confidently. Pinot Noir sloshed back and forth in my glass as I walked to the front of the shop, where I found an empty window bar stool between two people clicking away. As I sat down and figured out my place setting, I caught unapproving sidelong glances from left and right. I worried that my spread was encroaching upon my fellow patrons who each had only a computer and an iced coffee.

As I surveyed the tray in front of me, I discovered that the wine glasses are “designed” by Starbucks and made by the glassware giant Riedel. Not bad. What was in the glass was your typical brand-name, inoffensive Pinot Noir with slight fruity notes, high toned acidity and a little too lean, even though the oak was apparent. Overall it wasn’t bad.

The food, on the other hand, was more curated. Somewhere in a boardroom there must’ve been a panel discussion of the trendiest small plate/winebar items from 2005 to the present, cross-checked with a certain Starbucks clientele demographic bracket. An average was taken and ten items were selected, mass produced, frozen, powdered and packaged, flavor profiles be damned! Just make it look good in the PR pics.

The artichoke and goat cheese flatbread had the requisite “artisanal” look to it, but it was lukewarm and could have used another few minutes in the microwave. I say microwave because the bread had visual char on the crust but no char flavor. Actually, the flat bread had hardly any flavor at all and was a little too flexible. It was completely overwhelmed by the Pinot. I mean, I knew it wasn’t going to be flatbread made that morning but they could have used a toaster oven instead, amirite?

The cheese plate looked like your average Google image search of a cheese plate with a wedge of what I think was Manchego, some over-processed white cheddar and a medallion of herbed infested goat cheese, accompanied by dried apricots that I really had to chew to get down, and an attempt at Quince paste that had the consistency of coagulated blood.

I went for a second round with a red California blend, medium-bodied with uniform vanilla and sweet spice that wasn’t bad at all. But the truffled mac and cheese I paired with it was on the level of Stouffer’s, capped with stale bread crumbs and also lukewarm! What is up with the lukewarm-ness, guys? Are they not hitting the right preset on that microwave?

While the wine wasn’t half bad and a bit more focused than the usual corporate establishment, the food is meant to be seen, not tasted. Decent wine, flabby food. My first thought was they want to franchise the hell out of this idea.

Reflecting on the food it occurred to me that this is the kind of thing I would only eat if I had limited options. And then it hit me. Airports! This program could be the new go-to during your next layover. Airport bars are pretty abysmal in the wine department and the idea of being in a familiar place while being able to sip wine that is a notch up from dark backlit drinking holes with automated pianos is somewhat comforting. And with an hour to kill in JFK or O’Hare I think we can all agree, the food basically tastes the same so at least we can sip some decent wine or a local beer from wherever we are.


15 Facts That’ll Change How You Think About Starbucks

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Nowadays, Starbucks is more than your typical coffee joint—it’s a lifestyle, and everyone wants to stay informed. It often seems that a whirlwind of new Starbucks info is tossed around everyday, so we’ve put together an organized list of some important (and shocking) Starbucks facts to help keep you in the loop.

1. The most loyal 20% of customers come into the store at least 16 times per month.

Photo courtesy of mashable.com

The average customer typically visits 6 times per month. Consider where you fall on this spectrum to see how truly obsessed you are.

2. You can order dinner and booze at Starbucks.

Photo courtesy of for1yearofmylife.com

Game changer. Select Starbucks locations offer an exclusive evening menu including a variety of options ranging from truffle macaroni & cheese, artichoke & goat cheese flatbread, to wine and beer. Your nighttime study sessions will never be the same.

3. Living near a Starbucks can increase your home value.

Further, a study conducted by Quartz revealed that when a new Starbucks moves into a neighborhood, property values in the area increase by double the standard rate. So perhaps your daily coffee run isn’t making you as poor as you thought?

4. There are over 87,000 drink combination possibilities.

Taking into account the various size, drink, and flavor options, your drink possibilities are endless. Now you understand the reason for your indecisive anxiety each time you step in line.

5. You can find a Starbucks date online using match.com.

Photo courtesy of elegantweddinginvites.com

Yep, that’s right, Starbucks and match.com have joined forces to help turn coffee addicts everywhere into lovebirds, as Match members can use the “Meet at Starbucks” option to initiate that first date. What better way to fall in love than over a couple of caramel macchiatos?

6. As of March 2015, Starbucks will no longer be selling CDs.

Photo courtesy of digitalmusicnews.com

Try to not be too heartbroken about all the missed opportunities you had to purchase that obscure indie album that you glanced at as you purchased your vanilla latte.

7. The “trenta” sized cup holds more liquid than the human stomach.

Photo courtesy of trendhunter.com

At 30.9 ounces that beastly beverage will leave you feeling uncomfortably bloated.

8. You can now get your favorite Starbucks roast delivered straight to your door.

Photo courtesy of fortune.com

The coffee chain announced in February 2015 that customers will be able to subscribe to a variety of delivery options, ranging from single months, to the whole year.

9. The inventor of the Pumpkin Spice Latte was a Stanford basketball player.

Photo courtesy of cincinnati.com

Peter Dukes came to work at Starbucks in 2001 and was given the task of creating a new fall espresso drink. Little did he know that his idea of a pumpkin pie-inspired drink would evolve into one of the most beloved Starbucks drinks of all time.

10. Since 1987, an average of two Starbucks stores have opened each day.

Photo courtesy of coffeexperts.eu

With 11,962 stores in the US in 2014, Starbucks stores could soon become more abundant than McDonalds.

11. The majority of their flavored drinks contain more sugar than one should consume in entire day.

Photo courtesy of Becky Hughes

A tall Classic Chai Latte (one of their less sugary drinks), for example, has 32 grams of sugar, while the recommended daily maximum sugar intake is just 24 grams. Maybe next time you’ll rethink that extra pump of sweetener.

12. You can go smaller than the “tall.”

Photo courtesy of starbuckssecretmenu.net

Unknown to many, is that Starbucks offers an 8 oz. “short.” Although technically the “kids size,” this option is perfect for anyone wanting just a quick caffeine buzz.

13. Starbucks now offers coconut milk as an alternative to dairy and soy.

Photo courtesy of usatoday.com

According to the company, this was the “second-most requested customer idea of all time,” and with good reason, as it is a great option for those who are vegan, lactose-intolerant, paleo, or allergic to to other dairy alternatives.

14. A “grande” sized coffee contains four times the amount of caffeine as Red Bull.

Photo courtesy of pinterest.com

Starbucks gives you wings?

15. There is an entire website dedicated to the Starbucks secret menu.

Photo courtesy of danspapers.com

Although the secret menu has risen to popularity in recent years, a slew of outrageous items remain unknown to most. Such drinks, including the Captain Crunch Berry Frappuccino, Spiced Apple Chai, and the Caramel Snickerdoodle Macchiato blur the line between coffee and dessert. Dare to try one on your next visit?

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Last Call For Alcohol At Starbucks

Starbucks announced that its sales of beer and wine and small plates food will be discontinued in company-owned stores in the United States on Jan. 10. The company first introduced the “Evenings” concept in Seattle in 2010, and then eventually expanded to over 400 stores, including one in my own neighborhood.

The rationale was based on an assessment that the company’s third-space customers craved a meeting space where casual eats and drinks were available. Starbucks thus expanded the menu with an emphasis on comfort foods like truffle mac and cheese, flatbread pizzas and bacon-wrapped figs, served alongside a rotating assortment of beer and wine, often with a local connection.

The company tried hard – free wine tastings, table-side service, a certain amount of publicity and in-store promotions and signage to promote Evenings. In theory, it should’ve worked. And the company itself seemed bullish on it, planning a big expansion in the future.

But in the end, two factors doomed "Evenings." One, the “casual” beer and wine experience at Starbucks was always a little weird. During the day, customers were supposed to expect counter service only, but at night the baristas would come to you. And if you were using Starbucks for that out-of-home/out-of-office meeting space, that was an unexpected interruption.

The food was also not quite right. Not that it was bad food, or even the wrong food for beer and wine. That all worked. The problem was it wasn't relevant to the Starbucks brand. Scones and donuts make sense in a coffee shop, but truffle mac and cheese does not. And, for that matter, beer and wine don’t really fit either. If Starbucks was really going to do alcohol, why wouldn’t they do coffee-based drinks? And ultimately, if consumers are going to go somewhere where they can enjoy a glass of wine while talking about the day or, heaven forbid, reviewing spreadsheets or something, is Starbucks really going to be the first place they think of? Again, it's just kind of weird.

The second factor was Roastery, Starbucks’ high-end store experience. Roastery already has the casual but bar-like atmosphere that alcohol service requires – and that regular stores did not. Table service is not just an evening affair it’s all day. The coffee drinks served at Roastery – which go far beyond the lattes or iced or frozen drinks found in the regular stores – are served with all the flair of high-end cocktails. And high-end coffee drinks actually have more affinity (not to mention brand awareness) than beer and wine at Starbucks.

Ultimately, it’s actually a classic growth strategies issue. Starbucks’ analysis focused on customers and one of the company’s strengths: as a third space. They saw customers looking for an evening context to the third space, and they organized to provide it. But they didn’t look at brand adjacency. It would’ve made much more sense for Starbucks to introduce alcohol as a coffee-based experience, which leverages the company’s clear brand strength in coffee. Instead, the company embarked on a new type of service (table service) while also introducing a new set of products (beer, wine, and evening food). That is really hard to pull off because it asks your customers to get to know you in a totally new context. The only thing familiar about Evenings was the location.

Photo credit: Nikki Baird, Seattle, WA. June 22, 2016. A non-alcoholic coffee drink served . [+] table-side at the Starbucks Roastery.

So why should Roastery work while Evenings did not? It’s a new location, a new kind of service – but not entirely new products. It’s coffee. And Roastery, with its focus on elevating a coffee experience to the same level as a local distillery making craft cocktails filled with house-steeped botanicals, is exactly the right place to introduce alcohol into that mix – if that’s how Starbucks chooses to implement alcohol in that environment. And really, the location isn’t that new. It is at least not bipolar, self-serve by day/table service by night. It is still able to serve a third-space function. But it’s also a destination in the way a regular Starbucks store, with one on practically every corner, is not.

I originally thought that alcohol at Starbucks made sense – made more sense than breakfast all day at McDonald’s. I don’t think the company implemented the concept in their regular stores as well as they could have, but there is likely still a future where it can work. I can easily see that future being driven by successful alcoholic coffee drinks invented and served at Roastery, and then rolled out to regular stores, rather than one dependent on wine or beer alone.


Starbucks is serving beer and wine at five more locations this week, bringing the total to 70 nationwide. The company is expanding the menu to include booze at coffee shops in New York City, Denver, Miami, the Orlando suburbs and northern California.

Starbucks ( SBUX ) said it will start serving booze on Wednesday in Williamsburg, a Brooklyn neighborhood with no shortage of bars. The company was already serving alcohol at one other location in New York City, at Macy's in Manhattan.

This week's ramp-up is occurring in places where the alcohol menu has already taken hold. This will be the sixth coffee shop in Denver to serve alcohol, the ninth in northern California (including four in San Francisco,) the fifth in greater Orlando and the second in Miami.

Starbucks has been testing its "evening program" for years, starting in Seattle in 2010. Within five years from now, the company hopes to have beer and wine on the menu at 2,000 of its 12,000 coffee shops in America.

The company's online menu offers a selection of wines, including Malbec, pinot noir, pinot gris and Prosecco. "Ask your barista about our current selection of curated craft beers," reads the menu.

The drinks are served alongside dishes that are not the usual Starbucks fare. Small plates include truffle mac & cheese, chicken skewers, artichoke & goat cheese flatbread, meat balls with tomato basil sauce, bacon-wrapped dates, a cheese plate and truffle popcorn.


Starbucks to offer alcohol in more locations

The coffee shop chain will soon offer alcohol at locations in Atlanta and Southern California in addition to previously announced locations in Chicago and the Pacific Northwest.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Listen up, beer lovers -- you may soon be able to get your suds in grande form. At Starbucks.

Starbucks said Monday that it would begin offering beer and wine at select locations in Atlanta and Southern California by the end of this year, to go along with several locations in the Chicago area that have previously been announced.

Starbucks ( SBUX , Fortune 500) began the initiative in the Pacific Northwest in late 2010.

"As our customers transition from work to home, many are looking for a warm and inviting place to unwind and connect with the people they care about," Clarice Turner, Starbucks' senior vice president for U.S. operations, said in a statement.

"We're pleased with the response of our customers to the introduction of wine, beer and premium food at several of our stores in the Pacific Northwest, and we're excited to see how the idea translates to other markets."

The "enhanced menu" at these locations will also include savory snacks, small plates, and hot flatbreads, Starbucks said. The wines and beers on offer "will be hand-selected to reflect local customer tastes and preferences," the company added.


'Evenings' at Starbucks: Coffee shop to sell wine, craft beer, small plates

Starbucks gives us a peek inside their new evening experience where they will offer wine, beer and a menu of small plates for snacking or sharing all in a newly redesigned atmosphere to cater to morning and evening patrons.

The North 7th Street Starbucks in Brooklyn. After several years of cautiously testing the viability of selling beverages stiffer than a double shot of espresso, Starbucks is accelerating its effort to sell wine and craft beer in its U.S. stores. (Photo: Todd Plitt, USA TODAY)

NEW YORK — After several years of cautiously testing the viability of selling beverages stiffer than a double shot of espresso, Starbucks is accelerating its effort to sell wine and craft beer in its U.S. stores.

The push goes into high gear this week. The company on Wednesday will begin selling wine and beer, along with the sale of small plates such as bacon-wrapped dates and truffle mac ‘n cheese, at two dozen new locations across the U.S., Starbucks officials told USA TODAY.

The coffee giant has also submitted liquor license applications for several hundred more locations throughout the country in recent months and is optimistic that it will have many of those stores selling beer and wine by the end the year, said Rachel Antalek, vice president of concept innovations and Starbucks sommelier.

“We learned resoundingly that our customers want to come to Starbucks and have a glass of wine or a craft beer,” Antalek said in an interview at a company store in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, which will sell adult beverages this week. “There aren’t that many places to go in the evening where you can go very relaxed, very casual. It’s not loud. You can actually have a small group and hear yourself talk.”

Starbucks adds pumpkin to pumpkin spice latte

Once the new locations roll out this week, Starbucks will have more than 70 locations selling wine and beer. The coffee chain said this new wave of stores joining what it calls “Evenings” marks an inflection point in a push toward a concept company executives project will reap $1 billion in additional annual sales by 2019.

The ramp up starts in Denver, Miami, Orlando and Northern California markets, as well as a recently-opened, 2,900 square foot location here in Brooklyn, a store that Starbucks officials think can be an incubator for ideas as the company goes all-in on its bet that Americans want the option of a glass of wine or bottle of beer at the place best known for supplying a caffeine fix.

The company first announced in 2010 that it would experiment with wine, craft beer and small plates at a few stores as it sought to boost traffic after 4 p.m., when sales tended to slow down. Stores in Washington state, Oregon, Los Angeles, Chicago, Florida, and Atlanta markets were the first to test beer and wine.

Starbucks fans = Wine fans?

The North 7th Street Starbucks in Brooklyn. After several years of cautiously testing the viability of selling beverages stiffer than a double shot of espresso, Starbucks is accelerating its effort to sell wine and craft beer in its U.S. stores. (Photo: Todd Plitt, USA TODAY)

Starbucks waded carefully into Evenings as some industry analysts questioned whether Americans were interested in buying adult beverages at the same place they get their morning cappuccino. Company officials said they also considered the concerns of their skeptical devotees who worried their beloved coffee shops would transform into bars.

After nearly five years of experimenting with the concept, the company said it is confident that it is on to something. In the months ahead, patrons of the coffee chain will see Evenings pop up nearly everywhere as Starbucks introduces the concept in more than 2,000 of its more than 12,000 U.S. stores.

Starbucks to Expand Beer and Wine Sales to 3,000 Stores

When Starbucks launched Evenings, Antalek said company officials believed that they would be able to draw strong interest. Internal data showed about 70% of Starbucks patrons also drink wine. About 31% of Americans who drink alcohol say they prefer wine, according to a 2014 Gallup survey.

As the pilot stores rolled out, Starbucks officials were surprised at times by the level of interest and how patrons were using the program.

Antalek said from the start she has thought the program could be a winner with women, who she suggested would see Starbucks as a safer and more inviting option to meet friends during evening hours than a bar. The hunch proved largely true, with women accounting for 60% of Evenings patrons, according to the company. Pilot stores found serving wine helped the stores attract book clubs, knitting circles and even the occasional Bible study that would have otherwise taken place at someone’s house, the company said. Managers at the pilots have also noted that the wine and beer menu has drawn a surprising number of online daters meeting for the first time.

The push by quick service restaurants into alcohol sales isn’t new. Burger King launched the BK Whopper Bar concept more than five years ago, opening several locations where patrons could buy a bottle of beer to wash down their burger. Sonic has tested beer and wine sales to patrons eating at the fast food chains patio at some locations. And Taco Bell recently announced plans to test spiked freezes, beer and wine at locations in Chicago and San Francisco.

But none of those restaurants have gone beyond selling booze at a few locations.

“There’s consumer demand, but we’ll see how it goes for us,” Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol told USA TODAY of his chain's soon-to-be launched experiment. “I am very interested to see how it goes for Starbucks. For us, it’s got to be something that goes great with our food.”

Beer and wine drives new design

Brandon Giles, the store manager of the North 7th Street Starbucks in Brooklyn said having a coffee vocabulary is making beer- and wine-speak easy to pick up for the baristas. (Photo: Todd Plitt, USA TODAY)

With the move into beer and wine, Starbucks has also reconsidered the design of its stores, which company officials say should reflect their community.

With the Williamsburg store, which sits just blocks from the East River, the company wanted to give a nod to the area’s shipbuilding and manufacturing past while also reflecting the current aesthetic of one of New York’s chicest neighborhoods, said Claudia Woods, a senior store designer for Starbucks.

The exposed brick walls are decorated with original installations from artists from Brooklyn and Seattle (where Starbucks is headquartered). Among the works is an installation by Brooklyn’s Susan Weinthaler made from found furniture legs that are covered in text from the novel “Moby Dick," and mural from Seattle tattoo artist Kyler Martz that depicts the Starbucks’ siren and the Williamsburg Bridge.

Woods said as the Evenings program expands the company’s designers are also paying an increased attention on the types of seating in the store.

“It’s becoming really important for us to have different types of seating that can be used by our customers throughout the day,” Woods said. “As it becomes evening, the lounge seating is more important, and I think having areas for larger groups. We always make sure we have community tables where people can sit together and have a glass of wine and have a conversation.”

Starbucks tapped the expertise of its coffee quality team to help pull together a small group of sensory experts to evaluate more than 500 wines, who then winnowed the list down to 10 wines that they determined would suit their customers.

Customers, who are served by baristas, said they wanted to continue to pick up their drinks at the counter in the same way they pick up their coffee drinks, Antalek said. To help avoid spills, the company decided to go with stemless glassware. The baristas also fill a ramekin with salt and cayenne dusted pepitas that fits over the lip of the wine glass – a small touch that Antalek said they hope will help make the Evenings experience memorable.

”It’s a different occasion for the customer and what they need from us is different in the evening,” Antalek said.

With both the wine and beer options, Starbucks says it will try to stay local – in Oregon the menu includes wine from the Willamette Valley, the soon-to-launched program in Brooklyn will sell beers from the nearby Brooklyn Brewery, and Chicago’s menu includes beer from the city’s Goose Island brewery.

The baristas, who are trained to speak with customers in depth about the flavor profiles of Starbucks coffee beans, are now schooled in wine and beer so they can help direct their customers to something that fits their tastes. Brandon Giles, the store manager of Williamsburg, said having a coffee vocabulary is making beer- and wine-speak easy to pick up for the baristas.

“I think their biggest concern is being sure that we’re able to meet individual customer’s needs in the moment,” Giles said.


Why Can’t Starbucks Figure Out Food?

This week, Starbucks locations in Houston began selling and serving meals from Snap Kitchen, an Austin, Texas-based mini-chain that makes hearty meals focused on wellness. Options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — like turkey chili, chicken butternut macaroni, and grass-fed beef lasagna — are packaged in plastic bowls ready to reheat and eat.

Since April, five Starbucks stores in Houston have been selling the meals, according to a spokesperson. The company told employees in a letter on Monday that it planned to expand the partnership into another market soon, Bloomberg reported. Snap Kitchen has 53 locations in five U.S. cities: Austin, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

“The test of Snap Kitchens — a company we admire — is off to an amazing start in Houston and will soon expand,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson told employees in the letter. “I’m also impressed with the progress we are making to elevate food at Starbucks.”

Johnson’s confidence in his company’s push to “elevate food” is surprising for several reasons. First, just about a month ago, the Seattle-based coffee brand unveiled Mercato, a new grab-and-go-style lunch menu, in Chicago. In the announcement heralding the new sandwiches and salads, which are available in 100 Chicago-area locations, Starbucks said it planned to expand Mercato nationwide.

Whether or not Starbucks plans to serve both Snap Kitchen’s menu and its own Mercato line across the country is unclear. (A Starbucks spokesperson says only that the Snap Kitchen trial and Mercato menu are “separate.”)

This isn’t the first time the country’s most popular coffee company has tried to introduce savory menu items, though earlier attempts failed to attract consumers and turn a profit. According to earnings reports, 20 percent of Starbucks’ sales come from food. But with the exception of its grab-and-go line of prepared cold sandwiches and bistro boxes, the coffee giant hasn’t figured out how to consistently serve a menu of savory lunch (or dinner) food options.

Some say this could be due to the quality of lunch items Starbucks has offered over the years. Because Starbucks stores don’t have full kitchens, sandwiches, salads, and tapas have either been shipped frozen and microwaved to order or delivered to each location daily. and (with the exception of salads) reheated to order. If Starbucks really wanted to compete with Panera, it might need to consider installing actual kitchens and hiring cooks rather than training baristas on the delicate craft of convection oven reheating. But would such an enormous investment be worth it when Starbucks’ main profit center is coffee?

Here, now, a review of Starbucks’ food offerings over the years:

2004: Starbucks debuts yogurt and granola parfaits along with fruit salads. These items have since gone through several changes, but are still served in all stores.

2010: In an attempt to capture the dinner crowd, the coffee company begins testing what comes to be known as “Starbucks Evenings,” a menu of beer, wine, and tapas. By 2014 this menu had rolled out to 400 locations across the country. It clearly didn’t catch on the way the company would have liked this past January Starbucks canned evenings and the wine and beer that went along with it.

2011: Starbucks introduces bistro boxes, small grab-and-go snacks, like a cheese and fruit plate, packed in plastic trays that it sells in a cold case next to pre-packed cold sandwiches, juices, and milk. These offerings have gone through several changes but are still available at most locations.

2011: Starbucks buys Evolution Fresh, a fresh juice company founded in Southern California. The coffee company announces it will offer Evolution’s juices in its stores, and makes plans to open Evolution Fresh locations. The first Evolution Fresh juice bar opens in Washington in 2012 serving juices and a menu of vegetarian and vegan breakfast and lunch options. Eventually, a total of five locations open, but by the beginning of 2017 Starbucks closes each one, announcing it will keep selling Evolution juices in its coffee shops. Evolution Fresh’s salad offerings are no longer available.

2012: Starbucks buys SF-based bakery chain La Boulange for $100 million. The move is widely proclaimed as Starbucks’ serious foray into owning the salad and sandwich lunch business. The coffee company sets its sights on edging out competition from groups like Panera and Pret a Manger. But two years in customers complain about the new offerings, and in 2015 the company pulls back on its investment. It closes all 23 freestanding La Boulange locations and makes no plans to open new ones. The coffee chain’s baked goods line, meanwhile, suffers a sort of identity crisis after the merger.

2016: Starbucks tests brunch items, including waffles, quiche, and baked french toast at some locations.

2017: A month after introducing avocado toast, Starbucks introduces Mercato, a new menu of prepared sandwiches and salads, to 100 Chicago-area locations. That same month, Snap Kitchen begins selling bowls of savory meals, ready to reheat, at five Starbucks cafes in Houston.


Starbucks Aims to Double U.S. Food Sales

Starbucks is aiming to dramatically increase traffic in the afternoons and evenings with the menu changes in the next several years.

Julie Jargon

Starbucks Corp. aims to double sales from its food business in the U.S. over the next five years and become more of an evening food-and-wine destination as it continues its push to be more than just a coffee chain.

The Seattle-based chain known for its java in recent years has removed the word “coffee” from its logo and expanded food beyond its traditional breakfast pastries. During an investor conference on Thursday in which the company is expected to lay out its growth strategies for the next five years, Starbucks plans to announce a target for annual revenue from food in the U.S. market to double to more than $4 billion by fiscal 2019.

The nationwide rollout of La Boulange baked goods and sandwiches, completed earlier this year, has helped fuel sales growth and the company plans to expand its offerings at lunch to attract more customers at a slower time of day. “We now understand better than ever before how to develop a larger food business in our stores in the morning and increasingly at lunch,” Starbucks Chief Operating Officer Troy Alstead said in an interview.


Taco Bell Plans More Boozy Restaurants Is Starbucks the New Neighborhood Bar?

— Taco Bell is plotting to expand its boozy experiment beyond San Francisco and Chicago. Bloomberg reports that the company is looking to penetrate more "urban markets" where customers may not have cars. Taco Bell is scoping out sites in Boston, New York, and Columbus, Ohio for the expansion. While not every new location will offer alcohol, the new pedestrian-friendly format does feature a walk-up window. The Chicago location will open later this year, serving Dos Equis, Fat Tire, red sangria, Don Julio tequila, and Ketel One vodka.

— Carlo's Bakery, the location of the TLC show Cake Boss is opening its first Connecticut location in the Casino of the Earth on September 12. The company's 11th bakery features a special dessert-only dining concept called the Sweet Room, which will offer a small menu of Italian-inspired desserts.

— Coca-Cola is pledging to be more transparent about its health and nutrition efforts. According to the Associated Press, the sugary soda company's CEO Muhtar Kent announced that Coke would publish "a list of health and well-being partnerships and research activities" funded by his company in the past five years, with updates added every six months. The company, which regularly works with fitness and nutrition experts to promote Coke as a health food, recently came under scrutiny for funding the Global Energy Balance Network, an organization that promotes the idea that media places too much blame fast food and sugary drinks for health issues. The information will be posted to the Coke's website "within the next few weeks."

— Is Starbucks the new neighborhood pub hangout? Charles Passy of MarketWatch thinks so. At select locations across the country, the coffee chain has been busy rolling out its Starbucks Evenings concept, which offers a nighttime menu of beer, wine, and appetizers. Passy thinks the concept could catch hold in an untapped market — people who hate Starbucks coffee — because it offers a place to surf the internet and work while casually drinking beer.

— Brook Johnson, who you can thank for Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives, is retiring from Scripps Networks Interactive, according to Deadline Hollywood . Johnson is resident of the Food Network and Cook Channel and was influential in expanding cooking competition programming including shows like Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen .

— The Nebraska State Fair is launching a host of new novelty foods this year including the Willie Wonka Burger, a bizarre fusion of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, smoked cheddar, and bacon melted into a sandwich. Fried Spam on a stick, Bacon in a Blanket, the double bacon corn dog, and the jalapeno cheese corn dog will also make an appearance at this year's concessions, reports Kearney Hub.