It’s fun to bash Starbucks as a symbol of yuppiedom and paying too much for something that you can get for less down the street, but there’s little denying that they put gourmet coffee on the map in America.
Look no further than the grocery store, typically the last place that latches onto a trend. Before Starbucks, the selection in the coffee aisle was pretty pedestrian. Now the Starbucks-propelled enthusiasm for high-grade jet fuel has trickled down to my local Stop n’ Shop, where I can (thankfully) get a bag of Peet’s Major Dickason’s blend any time I want. A few years ago, I would’ve had to fly to San Francisco to get my hands on any. That’s progress in my book.
In 2010, Starbucks began to play with the idea of serving craft beer and wine. They started out in Seattle, expanded to Portland (where practically everything but the parking meters has a tap handle) and have now announced further expansion to Atlanta, Chicago and Southern California. And for good reason; they’re making money.
Forbes contributor Panos Mourdoukoutas says that the numbers add up nicely for Starbucks. In most locations, a Starbucks store will generate 70% of the day’s profits before 2pm. The stores that serve beer and wine have seen double-digit growth in sales of food and beverages after 4pm, making the second half of the day far more profitable. Also, the profit margin on a glass of beer can be over 400%, which can help Starbucks offset the thinning margins on coffee. There are a few challenges, but if this model continues to work in Atlanta, Chicago and So Cal, expect the expansion to continue across the country.
The question is, what effect will this have on the popularity of craft beer in America? Will Starbucks help accelerate awareness and acceptance of craft beer, or have little to no effect?
There’s little chance that they’ll change the face of beer the way they did coffee, a beverage which they actually source, roast and sell themselves. But still, they have shops on every corner, and many people consider them to be taste makers, a place to drive your BMW, surf the web on your MacBook Air and maybe buy a She & Him CD (as I said, it’s fun to bash them!).
Time will certainly tell, but Starbucks’ endorsement of craft beer might help some folks realize that they should put down the Blue Moon and pick up an Avery White Rascal, the same way they taught folks to forgo the Folgers and pick up a bag of Cafe Verona instead. In those cases, they brought a whole new consumer into the world of coffee – can they do the same for craft beer?
As always, please let us know your thoughts below. In the meantime, maybe Southern Tier can start working on a caramel macchiato stout for the occasion!