Tuesday, October 19, 2010

From lattes to IPA's

USA Today and AP report on the opening of a revamped version of Starbucks that just opened in Seattle. From the AP story:

Something new is on the menu at a renovated Starbucks in Seattle: beer and wine.

The store that reopened Monday is the first under the Starbucks brand to offer alcohol.

Craft beer and local wines go on sale after 4 p.m. The idea is to offer drinks and a wider variety of savory food that will attract customers after the morning espresso rush.

The store closed in July for the renovation, which also includes a circular coffee bar that brings customers closer to the baristas.

The Olive Way store is one of Starbucks Corp.'s percolators for ideas that could someday spread to the Seattle-based chain's other locations. Company officials have declined to say how soon elements from the shop might appear elsewhere.

And from USA 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.

I'm not sure what to make of this. I have something of a love/hate relationship with the world's most famous siren. I'm down with the whole regional thing, but my cynical side thinks Starbucks should figure out how to serve up a consistently good cup of coffee (or a latte for under $3) before they branch out into beer, wine and cheese. Nevertheless expect to see this trend coming to a store near you. Like the USA Today story says: "When Starbucks sneezes, global pop culture feels the draft."

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