As my roommate Tyler (Steve(his blog)) and I chatted over some pumpkin spice lattes at a Starbucks last night, we discussed the possibility of this brewing giant moving into the service of quite another type of brewed beverage, beer (or just fermented, wine). In between quips about foreign policy, green technology, the state of our generation, and indie rock and roll, we commented on the proposed impact on profitability and brand image of such a development in the retail cafe space.
Ok, we were actually just watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall as we microwaved our dinners and I drank a Leffe, but regardless… we concur that this seems like a wonderful opportunity for Starbucks.
Our lovely female marketing analyst in the interview (you really must watch), boldly states, and I (mis)quote “what’s the opposite of coffee? ALCOHOL!!!! Why would you ever put these together!?!?” AHHH ohhh noooo!!! As my friend Vizzini the Sicilian would say, “Inconceivable!” This begs the question, what’s the opposite of water? Air! AHH we shall not mix them! And the opposite of food? Drinks! I request all restaurants never serve me my meal until I am finished with my incompatible beverage first, lest face my wraith.
Truth is, places have been mixing alcohol and caffeine since… well… the day the first person mixed alcohol and caffeine, and it works. Ask Red-Bull vodka, Four Loko, and Irish coffee fans, or the cast of the Jersey Shore.
Perhaps with even more success and rationality at different times of the day, the morning coffee and the evening drink have always been a societal norm, and now you can enjoy your favorite atmosphere for either or both. Cafes in Europe follow this model, moving from coffee in the morning hours, to wine in the evening. Starbucks can now claim to be the home of the lunch/coffee meeting during the day, and the casual drink after work as well.
The one area of concern I can imagine is how this will effect the droves of teenagers who flock to Starbucks as a late evening, before bedtime, hangout after attending the latest Jonas Bros concert or what have you. You can imagine the menacing hipster Starbucks bouncer checking IDs and turning them away in caffeine deprived prepubescent masses. Upon further evaluation however, what was your customer value level as a preteen at Starbucks? a $2.50 venti coffee among three friends and about 300 sugar packets, a net loss of about 10 cents and your dignity.
In conclusion, roll this baby out in the right places (specifically in locations where the demographic is already mainly over 21) and where there is a suitable substitute Starbucks nearby (I know of multiple street corners at which at least two can be spotted).
Somehow, someway, Starbucks has managed to avoid the plague that, well, plagues some of the big corporations of today. If not immune, they are at least resistant to the struggles Wal-Mart and McDonald’s have had, holding onto that consumer that is morally opposed to their “big business” actions, and has the wherewithal to act on these emotions. These same people that boycott good ol’ Sam Walton’s corner stores and would never be caught dead with a McCafe Latte still patronize the corner Starbucks like it’s an OAR concert.
My advice, keep doing what you’re doing. And what you’ve been doing is evolving, so keep doing what you’ve been doing by not doing what you’ve been doing I suppose? Look at BlockBuster, think they would like to hop into a Coke Zero Do Over and transition into online content before Netflix, Hulu and the like pushed them into bankruptcy? Of course, there’s something to be said about the philosophy of “doing what you do, and doing it right”, but coffee isn’t what Starbucks does best. Ask any java aficionado and they’ll tell you that. What they’ve mastered is the experience of the cafe, the casual drink, the hangout spot, and they’ve been innovative enough to stay ahead of the curve of consumers’ fickleness. So ride that wave straight into it, and next time I walk into a Starbucks on a cool December evening, you better have some Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale on tap.
Boom, Roasted (beans).