Starbucks will be pulling the alcoholic drinks and small plates menu from its 439 US company-owned locations. However, the global coffee chain said it may continue in some of the nine licensed stores where it is offered, or overseas.
“It is not surprising that Starbucks decided to end its experiment with selling alcohol,” Matthew Barry, beverage analyst at Euromonitor International, told BeverageDaily.
“Starbucks tends to do well when it keeps its focus on coffee and poorly when it gets distracted and tries to do too much else.”
Reasoning behind the menu program
First launched in 2010 at its flagship Seattle, Washington, location, the Evenings menu included selections of beer and wine with small plate menu items such as truffle mac and cheese, bacon-wrapped dates, and artisanal flat breads. The concept was intended to foster a casual meeting environment in the evening hours after the company identified that its customers are also wine enthusiasts.
The company found that 70% of its customers drink wine, compared to 30% of the general US population based on a market research study polling customers over the age of 21, giving it a seemingly appropriate launching pad for the concept.
The alcoholic beverage options varied by region and were selected by the Starbucks quality team, which included an in-house sommelier.
“The Evenings concept was interesting, but it was never clear why a consumer looking to go out and have a few drinks with friends would pick Starbucks when there are so many other options available,” Barry said.
Integrating into a higher-end format
Starbucks said in 2014 it planned to expand its alcoholic beverage offerings to "thousands" of stores. Now, it says it will integrate beer and wine into its higher-end retail format, such as its Roastery stores.
The Roastery is a relatively new and growing strategic intiative designed to elevate the Starbucks brand to a more high-end coffee drinking experience for customers. The Roastery locations, which are few at this point, feature table service and specialized coffee beverages.
“There probably is a future for alcohol at Starbucks at these new Roasteries since they are focused on being a high-end destination rather than a place you stop by to get coffee on the way to work. Well-crafted alcoholic drinks could certainly find a place,” Barry said.