Starbucks Still Really, Really Wants You To Come By For Lunch

Image courtesy of Bill Binns

America, Starbucks really wants to do lunch. You go there for breakfast and for the occasional afternoon caffeine pick-me-up, but where are you at midday, when Starbucks has plenty of sandwiches, bagels, and bistro boxes sitting around that lunch customers aren’t using. How can a place known for coffee convince people to stop by for lunch?

In a way, this is the exact reverse of the dilemma McDonald’s has right now: the fast-food eatery has people coming in for lunch, but not-so-secretly dreams of crowds of espresso drinkers. Starbucks’ goal under incoming CEO Kevin Johnson will be to boost food sales to 25% of its business, up from the current 20%.

While that sounds pretty modest, experts wonder whether customers are interested in buying that much more food from Starbucks. “I just don’t know how — operationally and labor-wise — they’re really equipped to take the next leap in food,” a food industry consultant told Bloomberg News. “I’d rather see them focus on beverage innovation.”

Indeed, new (to Starbucks) ideas like cold brew coffee and the flat white have been recent hits for Starbucks; new ways to serve the coffee that it already has would seem to go farther than new ideas like its seasonal ham and stuffing breakfast sandwich.

Starbucks has experimented in the past with ways to move more food: it purchased the bakery chain La Boulange and opened a namesake restaurant with late hours, but that wasn’t a hit. Evening sessions in a few cafés where the chain serves alcohol and small plates of food have been successful in the relatively few restaurants where Starbucks has tried it, but that’s probably not available in a store near you.

The company even acquired another upscale bakery, Princi, and has announced plans to open standalone locations for the brand in 2017 and 2018, much like it did with the first bakery chain that it acquired and killed off, La Boulange.

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