When I first wrote about Starbucks experimenting with wine service, it was the summer of 2009, and the “market research” was restricted to a single location in the company’s hometown of Seattle.
Over the next four-plus years, Starbucks has brought wine to 26 stores across the nation, including one right across the street from my office in Chicago, where I was headquartered until last October. By the end of this year, more than a dozen additional Starbucks locations will be serving wine.
Apparently, the numbers have been impressive because, according to this report, the concept will be expanding into thousands of locations over the next few years.
“The concept is a natural progression for Starbucks as we seek to create a new occasion for customers to gather, relax and connect with each other in the evenings,” spokesperson Lisa Passe told USA Today.
Starbucks isn’t the only traditionally “dry” business to embrace alcohol sales in recent years. Burger King sells beer at its experimental BK Whopper Bar locations in Las Vegas and Miami’s South Beach, with plans for additional upscale restaurants. Sonic sells beer and wine at its four Sonic Beach locations in Florida. And more traditional restaurants are getting more creative with their adult beverage offerings — including Red Robin with its wine shakes, as we wrote about here last week.
Starbucks, Burger King, Sonic and Red Robin add alcohol or expand “adult beverage” menus because such drinks increase the customer “ticket.” At traditional Starbucks locations, the average ticket is $5. When wine is offered, that ticket doubles or even triples.
Starbucks has long promoted the concept, among both its customers and employees, that a visit to one of its stores is not just about the coffee. It’s about the experience. And over the next few years, more and more of us will be able to toast that experience with a glass of wine.