It seems that Starbucks is about to start selling wine and beer alongside its coffee in New York Seattle.
Is this a victory for common sense and the treatment of the public as responsible adults, or something else? Sadly, it is probably 99% something else: financial self-interest.
Starbucks are in a whole heap of financial trouble and looking for ways to turn around the business. Their coffee brand has lost much of its lustre and now they have too many outlets selling too little coffee to keep shareholders happy (never mind all the jobs they provide). So, a new model is to be found.
Is the idea of alcohol served in a coffee led retail space revolutionary? Not at all if you have ever visited France, Italy, Spain and pretty much all of Continental Europe. Unfortunately it says a lot that this is not the norm in the US, or in the UK.
It worries me though, not because of what they are doing, but because of why they are doing it.
This will be one of the first experiments on liberalising the straightjacket of alcohol licensing in the UK and US, and as such it will be watched carefully and treated as a case study. If it were to be done properly, the staff in the local area would select suitable drinks for their clientelle, one they had a relationship with, to ensure they were selecting the mix that would be right. In practice it will be treated as an auction with the biggest brands bidding to be listed and ‘marketed’, and there is every chance the customers will not be interested.
Will that do anything for Starbucks?
Maybe in the short term, but if it is a failure in the medium to long term, it will not only be bad for Starbucks, it will make it that much harder for any well intentioned cafe owner doing it properly.
I must say I am very pessimistic about it working in the UK if all else stays the same.
If you like good coffee, like me, you will realise that the very robotic uniformity and ‘global solution’ approach to serving coffee that is killing Starbucks’ coffee brand is total anathema to the real world of wine and beer.
Dear Starbucks, don’t you realise we are laughing and crying when you say:
“We’ll be equally as proud of our beer and wine as we are of our coffee,”
PLEASE do this properly, or not at all!
Oh, and by the way, I’m available at reasonable rates to advise on implementing this in the UK, and while you are at it, I have an idea that will REALLY change the business – feel free to ask 🙂
Update: if you are interested in these two subjects you might also want to check out: http://coffeelikewine.blogspot.com/
Further Update (23:34): In case you didn’t decide to follow the link in the first paragraph, and have not read this story elsewhere, Starbucks is trialling this coffee + wine + beer concept in only 1 store in Seattle to be called “15th Ave. Coffee and Tea inspired by Starbucks” (except missing the inspiration bit in the name). This is not (yet) an announcement that they will do the same in the main Starbucks branded outlets.
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