Starbucks, long known for its pricey coffee, is now officially selling beer, wine and other stiffer beverages. After years of testing the viability of selling alcohol in its locations, the coffee maker has officially decided to pursue the new line aggressively.
On Wednesday, Starbucks will officially start selling beer, special wines, small plates of truffle mac ‘n cheese and bacon wrapped dates. The new program will be launched at two dozen locations across the U.S.
The initial locations are just the first wave in the initiative as the coffee giant has submitted hundreds of liquor licence applications for locations across the U.S. The coffee maker intends to have those locations actively selling beer and wine in the evenings by the end of the year.
Rachel Antalek, Starbucks’ Vice President of concept innovations, said “We learned resoundingly that our customers want to come to Starbucks and have a glass of wine or a craft beer. 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.”
By end of this week, Starbucks will have more than 70 of its locations selling beer and wine. Starbucks boasts of over 12000 stores in the U.S. By the end of the year, it intends to have the “evenings’ concept live in over 2000 of its locations. Company executives predict that the concept will rake in $1 billion in annual sales by 2019.
The program will begin launching in Denver, Orlando, Miami and North California.
The company first began testing the new concept in 2010. It began with selling wine, craft beer and the unique small plates at a select few local stores where business slowed down after 4 p.m.
These stores were in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Oregon and Washington States.
After five years of testing, Starbucks has revealed that it would proceed full throttle with the concept, convinced it is on to something.
Starbucks is not the first service restaurant to move towards alcohol. Burger King laid down the path with the BK Whopper Bar five years ago. Burger chain Sonic has tested selling beer to patrons and Taco Bell announced it would be testing beer, spiked freezes and wine at locations in San Francisco and Chicago.
Taco bell chief executive Brian Niccol said, “There’s consumer demand, but we’ll see how it goes for us. 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.”
Though critics have showed concern over the sale of beer by the coffee retailer, executives are convinced the concept will be profitable. Diversification into the beverage industry may mark a turning point for the country’s most popular coffee maker. The question remains, will consumers prefer to grab their morning cup of cappuccino the same place they taste their evening wine?