Starbucks Really Wants To See You A Little Later

There are some businesses that have it all, and then there are businesses that are working towards having it all; Starbucks has been moving into the latter category for the past five years. They’ve begun evolving their brand to catch crowds at all hours of the day and most of the night, offering more in the way of true blue cafe (pub?) than its original coffee-and-scone pallet.

Let’s say it’s 6 a.m. and you are in desperate need of a coffee; no problem. Head to the nearest corner and step into the Starbucks you will inevitably find there to have your expensive pick. On second thought, maybe grab two, it is 6 a.m. after all. It’s now after 4 p.m. and you’ve had your two or six coffees and done whatever it is you do in a day. You head down to that same corner Starbucks, because loyal customers are creatures of habit, and grab your last coffee of the day. Don’t worry, they’re a coffee shop, they don’t think you have a problem. Settling into one of the admittedly comfy chairs, you pull your laptop out of its case and get to work. Before you know it, your coffee is gone and you’ve just finished that huge proposal for work, or you just wrote the last sentence of your thesis, or you’ve just reached level 300 in Candy Crush. Whatever the case may be, you feel the need to celebrate. It’s a shame you’ll have to go find a pub that can offer you a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and some artichoke & goat cheese flatbread, or do you?

Thursday, August 20, was the debut of the Starbucks Evenings menu at their Williamsburg location. Although this is the first stand-alone location in New York to receive the honor, this menu isn’t something that is completely new. The first store to have this roll out was the Starbucks Olive Way location in Seattle back in 2010. Even so, five-years later, it’s still considered a novelty. Out of its 12,000 U.S. stores, only 76 have this trendier (maybe more exclusive is the right terminology) menu expansion. That’s only 0.6 percent of all Starbucks. Although currently this number is rather low, they have high hopes of serving beer and wine in 2,000 of their stores within the next five years.

In terms of business, this may be a smart move for Starbucks. We already know they attract people in droves with their coffee and their scones. We can also assume, however, that the the bulk of those droves appear in the early morning to very early evening. How many people are frequenting the store for a big energy boost at nine at night? Offering the evenings menu from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and until 10 p.m. on weekends gives Starbucks a wider market base. Anyone can see the difference in atmosphere from a Starbucks to any bar, and that’s a good thing; perhaps what they were going for. Because they never stop being a coffee shop, they’re able to maintain that hang-out feel. You know the one; a group of friends catching up on the comfy chairs or community table while the other patrons sit on their laptops with headphones on. Does it really change that much because some beers and small plates are added to the menu?

Serving beer and wine with some fancier fare doesn’t mean they are hoping this turns into a bar experience. The company doesn’t want their customers coming into a Starbucks to get obliterated. The stores will be more inviting to a different kind of crowd, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean rowdier. Can you really see anyone turning to a Starbucks for a party spot? Those going to the stores for a drink and a bite will do so for the atmosphere they’ve maintained for years.

According to USA Today, Rachel Antalek, vice president of concept innovations and Starbucks sommelier, is in agreement with that.

“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.”

In that, Starbucks will be as it ever was. Some of their dishes will still receive heavy complaints, only instead of the scones being too dry, now it will be that the chicken is too rubbery. Much the same, instead of discussing the goodness of their chocolate biscotti, customers will now mellowly rave about their bacon-wrapped dates. What Starbucks is really mostly about, other than their namesake (coffee, in case you weren’t getting that), is atmosphere. Offering a refined place to stop off for conversation and a drink can only help them in the long run.

The Inquisitr earlier reported that former NBA star, Vin Baker, is now a Starbucks barista. He lost his fortune due to his alcoholism, but what working at Starbucks has allowed him to do is be trained in a career that doesn’t rely on his physicality. Having played for the Sonics when Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz owned them, Baker feels an excitement working for this company at this stage in his life. He sees a bright future with Starbucks and is training with the intention of owning one of their stores. The direction the company is moving now can only serve to solidify this vision for Baker, and we hope to see him prosperous again.

Be rest assured, Starbucks loves seeing you a little later, so find an Evenings store, sample the new items or just stick with your tried and true old order. In the end it’s still the same Starbucks: mellow, popular and everywhere you look.

[Image via Starbucks]