Boozing at Starbucks

What you have to know about the chain's evening fare

The aroma of roasting coffee beans, the clicking of teaspoons against glass, the drifting notes from coffeehouse jams, the fizzing of beer.

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If this were a “which one of these is not like the others” question, the answer would obviously be the beer. But in this brave new world, Starbucks has released evening menus at more than 70 select locations (appropriately named “Starbucks Evening Stores”). The aim is obvious: Increase market share.

Related: Champagne Monopoly Busted

A Mintel Report from 2014 showed that “70 percent of Starbucks customers drink wine, as compared to 30 percent of the general U.S. population.” Mintel also found that the coffee empire’s customers are twice as likely to drink craft beer than the average Joe.

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The company declined LifeZette’s request for an interview.

Beer and wine selected to sip and savor

This “new” menu shouldn’t be particularly surprising. Keen eyes will have noticed that “coffee” has slowly been stripped from the brand’s name, and it’s not actually new.

The first Starbucks Evening Store appeared back in 2010 in Seattle, Washington. Much as McDonald’s did with McCafe, the brand is evolving to be a one-stop-shop. So the real question isn’t why is the company is expanding. Instead, it’s: “Are these evening offerings any good?”

Related: Small Coffee is Big Business

Rodrigo Ribeiro, a 34-year-old pilot for JetBlue, has traveled the world. One of his comforts throughout his travels has been Starbucks (his Instagram account is practically sponsored by Starbucks). Recently he visited a Starbucks Evening location in Palm Springs, California, where he had some of the new menu’s most popular offerings, and clearest examples of it that cater to today’s casual upscale dining trends: truffle mac-and-cheese and a glass of prosecco.

The signature Starbucks beverages

Riberio said the food was “good,” which isn’t surprising, given that Starbucks has an in-house sommelier in Rachel Antalek. But he seemed more interested by the service than the offerings themselves, which added to the general Starbucks “feeling.”

“It pleasantly surprised me that it was delivered to my table,” he said. “It was a nice experience. It felt like the comfortable place Starbucks is.”

That said, he noted that even though he visited a busy location at 6 p.m., he was the only one with anything from that menu. The prices could easily be to blame. His wine was $8 and his meal was $5.95 (the most expensive wine cost $15, and the food runs from $4.95 to $6.95). Compare that to what most people expect to spend at a Starbucks: $4 for a fancier coffee and as low as $2 for a regular cup of Joe.

Related: What Wine Snobs Won’t Say

There is also this glaring issue: There are generally better places to eat and drink.

“The only problem I have going there in the evening specifically for this menu is that it was in Palm Springs, where it’s full of other, better places to go have a happy-hour drink or wine and snack. That’s why this was my first time having it,” Ribeiro said.

Given that Starbucks has chosen to expand the menu to locations across the country, it clearly finds value in having it. The slow expansion from breakfast sandwiches to evening flatbreads, from cappuccinos to cabernets, can be seen as a cynical attempt to pounce on a dining trend — or it’s simply a corporation in search of new revenue streams.

Delicious plates to sample, enjoy and share

Either way, it’s long been said that Starbucks is a third place, not home or work. Now it’s a third place you can spend time at longer. Only time will tell if you actually do.

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