Commentary

Starbucks Serving Up High-End 'Tasting Rooms,' Food, Alcohol And App Ordering

There’s going to be a whole lot of slurping and munching going on not only at Starbucks and its new high-end sibling — the Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, which is opening the doors to its first outlet today in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood — but also in hideaways where folks who would rather skip the small talk will be able order and pay for their Soy Strawberries and Crème Frappuccino Blended Crème through their smartphones.

And that’s not all that was revealed at its biennial investor conference at its Seattle headquarters yesterday.

“Merlot with your mocha, anyone?” asks Robert Dominguez in the New York Daily News. “Starbucks is brewing up a slew of new offerings at many of its U.S. locations, including adding wine and beer to its lineup of pricey coffees.”

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“Wow, what isn’t this company working on?” exclaims Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors, at the end of a 1:04 video rundown of yesterday’s announcements on USA Today’s “The Street” that carries the exclamatory hed “Starbucks completely blew investors away.”

In an earlier commentary for CNBC.com, Sozzi asserts that Starbucks’ mission is to “get a caffeine seeker their daily drug wherever they exist while also becoming the happy hour joint of the new teen population.”

The company “aims to double sales from its food business in the U.S. over the next five years and become more of an evening food-and-wine destination as it continues its push to be more than just a coffee chain,” writes the Wall Street Journal’s Julie Jargon in the lede of her walk-up piece to yesterday’s event. 

The Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room is unlike anything out there, apparently.

“With this new venture, Starbucks has signaled that it intends to lure aficionados of high-end coffee, as it eyes the growing market for rare coffees, those beans grown in small quantities that sell for as much as $45 for less than a pound,” reports the New York Times’ Stephanie Strom in a piece that surveys the competition for what may eventually be a nationwide enterprise of 100 or so “plush” stores.

“The store redefines the retail flagship store of the future, says Scott Bedbury, a brand consultant and former marketing chief at both Starbucks and Nike,” writesUSA Today’s Bruce Horovitz, because “you can see, hear, feel, smell and taste the product being made.”

“The brand is being defined at its very best for the world to see,” Bedbury says.

GeekWire’s Taylor Soper took a tour this week of the first 15,000 –square-foot outlet, reporting that Schultz called it “the Willy Wonka of coffee” in an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow.

“The most noticeable aspect of the place is how customers can see exactly how their cup of joe is made, from the minute it comes off the truck as green coffee beans to the moment a barista pours the liquid into a mug,” Soper reports. “There’s even a window in the bathrooms — which feature individual stalls with doors and a dedicated attendant — that lets you peer into the roasting facility.”

As for Schultz’ Wonka vision, he tells Harlow: “This is all about elevating the experience, beyond any coffee experience, or retail experience, anywhere in the world. I wanted to ... create this multi-sensory experience with theater, romance, drama.”

That’s all great … unless you’d rather be alone.

If you live in Portland — the hipster one, of course, with competition like a vegetarian restaurant named Wolf & Bear’s that draws the likes of Armisen and Seinfeld driving around for a cup of coffee — you already can order through an app.

“Then, saunter into the appropriate Starbucks branch, whisper your name into the ear of a barista, and you should get your drink,” writes Jamie Condliffe for Gizmodo. “Hey presto, coffee, without having to wait in line or speak to another human for any length of time.”

“Of all the new traffic-driving initiatives for the company, Mobile Order & Pay is at the top of that list, and we are confident that it will be game-changing for our customers and our business,” Starbucks’ chief digital officer, Adam Brotman, tells Investor.com’s Alissa Williams.

It’s expected to roll out nationally by the end of 2015, Brotman, tells the Oregonian’s Samantha Bakall. “Besides mobile ordering, we're planning on launching mobile delivery. Not only would you be able to order via mobile and pick-up, but do mobile ordering and have it delivered to you,” Brotman says.

Happy, happy, joy, joy. Even less speaking to another human for any length of time.

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