Have you heard the rumors of Starbucks selling beer & wine along with their usual menu? It’s TRUE! I’ve never set foot in a Starbucks…until now. As a beer lover, I’m gonna need something even bigger than a Vente!
(Courtesy of Bruce Horovitz – USA Today)
The Starbucks of the future arrived today.
If Starbucks (SBUX) executives have it figured out right, this could be the prototype for the next generation of stores for one of the world’s most influential brands.
A very different kind of Starbucks is on tap. It will serve regional wine and beer. It offers an expansive plate of locally made cheeses — served on china. The barista bar is rebuilt to seat customers up close to the coffee.
Most conspicuously, the place looks less like a Starbucks and more like a cafe that’s been part of the neighborhood for years — yet that’s “green” in design and decor. This is the calling card of independent java joints that have been eating and sipping away at Starbucks’ evening business for decades. U.S. Starbucks stores get 70% of business before 2 p.m.
The corporate eyes of Starbucks — and the nation’s ultracompetitive, $15 billion chain coffee business — are laser-focused on this Starbucks store on Olive Way in Seattle’s bustling Capitol Hill area. The 10-year-old location was closed for three months to be revamped into a Starbucks that may not look or sound like any Starbucks you know. But if this location is a hit, some version of it may eventually come to a Starbucks near you.
Starbucks, which turns 40 next year, is entering middle age with a keen desire to improve the way that its customers — and its stockholders — respond to the brand. For customers, the company wants to make the stores seem friendlier and more a part of the neighborhood. For stockholders, the company wants stores to be more profitable by targeting greater evening use.
Even then, the company is aware of the footprint it leaves no matter what it does. The 16,000-unit chain ranks among the world’s most widely copied brands. When Starbucks sneezes, global pop culture feels the draft.
USA TODAY spent a day behind the scenes on an exclusive tour of the renovated store in the midst of last-minute construction activity before its big reopening.
Inside, the floor is stripped to highly polished concrete. Some of the chairs were salvaged from the University of Washington campus. Empty burlap sacks — once used to transport Starbucks coffee beans — hang from the walls. And an oversized table — designed for customers to share — is made from flooring salvaged from a local high school.
Until now, two local cafes owned by Starbucks have been used as “living labs” to test the new look and ambience of future stores, but without the Starbucks name. Instead, these two locations were named simply by their street locations. Very subtle “inspired by Starbucks” signs are etched on their doors.
But this one most assuredly is a Starbucks. A sign hoisted above the store — designed to mimic the antiquated sign above Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market — can be seen from blocks away.