Starbucks to Offer Beer and Wine at Thousands of Locations

Starbucks plans to turn more of its cafes into destinations for beer and wine in the evenings.

The coffee company says it is looking to expand alcohol sales to "thousands of select stores" over the next several years, although it didn't provide details on an exact timeline.

The chain first offered beer and wine after 4 p.m. at one of its Seattle cafes in 2010. The drinks are now in about 26 cafes, with plans to reach 40 by the end of the year. The cafes with alcohol also serve a variety of small dishes, such as bacon-wrapped dates and flatbreads.

It's part of Starbucks' push to boost sales after the morning rush hour. It's a common concept in the restaurant industry — figuring out ways to maximize sales throughout the day since stores have to pay for rent and labor anyway.

Taco Bell, for instance, recently started highlighting snacks in its ads to drive sales during the slower late afternoon hours. And the fruit shakes and other drinks at McDonald's are seen as a way to attract people throughout the day.

The idea behind the new "Starbucks Evenings" offerings sounded appetizing to some customers.

"I think the food and drinks will be a great combination. This will be the place where you have a glass of wine and perhaps you want to chat with someone, so I don't find it to be a bad thing," said Jeannette Deleo. "I find it to be a good thing."

But branding expert Carlos Pena doesn't understand Starbucks decision. He says the company has already spent millions marketing itself as a coffee chain. Why change now?

"I think it's a bad idea for the long term because they are going to spend a lot more money trying to reposition people's minds all the money they've already spent," he said. "Go back to your original roots. Solidify that."

As for Starbucks Corp., the chain recently introduced new sandwiches and salads to boost sales in the afternoon. It's also branching out into other areas to as it faces more competition in the coffee market.

The company recently purchased a chain of tea shops called Teavana. CEO Howard Schultz has said he wants to make tea as popular in the U.S. as he's helped make coffee.

There are about 11,000 Starbucks stores in the U.S.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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