Starbucks Stops Selling Beer, Wine at More than 400 Stores

THE GIST
Starbucks will stop selling beer and wine at more than 400 locations across the United States this week, putting an end to its ambitious “Evenings” program. First launched in 2010, the coffee conglomerate began selling alcohol at night as a means of spurring sales long after the morning rush died down. As of 2015, the company was intent on a massive expansion of the program. Now, instead, the coffee giant is nixing “Evenings” and integrating its alcohol sales into its higher-end retail outlets and Roastery stores, per the AP.

WHY IT MATTERS
Starbucks is hardly the only fast casual food giant to experiment with alcohol sales; Burger King, Taco Bell, Sonic, White Castle, and Chipotle have all explored the booze business lately. But most of these endeavors have been confined to a limited number of locations. Starbucks took a different approach. In 2015, the company said it planned to sell alcohol in 2,000 locations across the United States. This, the company hoped, would create $1 billion in new sales in just four years time.

As such, you can rest assured those other companies mentioned—who have to date proven conservative with their commitment to alcohol—are paying close attention to this news. Or, as Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol told USA Today in 2015: “There’s consumer demand, but we’ll see how it goes… I am very interested to see how it goes for Starbucks.”

Indeed, Starbucks was bullish on booze, having spent five years tinkering with the concept and aggressively rolling it out into more stores over time. In the same USA Today story, Rachel Antalek, vice president of concept innovations at Starbucks was quoted as saying: “We learned resoundingly that our customers want to come to Starbucks and have a glass of wine or a craft beer.”

Two years later, it killed the program. While it’s hard to say exactly how Starbucks miscalculated demand for booze at its own stores by such a wide margin, it’s undoubtedly a miscalculation being mulled over by all the other fast casual food and drink companies that have so far kept a tight leash on their alcohol ventures.

—Dave Eisenberg
 
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Starbucks to stop selling alcohol at more than 400 US stores [Associated Press]