Remember experimenting with alcohol and changing your name? Well, it must be Starbucks’ freshman year at college because they will be launching a new “neighborhood” concept store next week under the name “15th Avenue Coffee & Tea” that adds beer and win to the menu.
As always, I had a few thoughts on the subject, which were kindly quoted by the Associated Press:
Andrew Hetzel, the founder of coffee consulting group Cafemakers, said Starbucks may also be renaming its stores to provide a testing ground for changes and, possibly, to bring in a new brand of consumer.
“It looks to me that they are testing a specialty sub-brand to see if they can capture some other segment of the market that would otherwise be disillusioned by a large corporate chain,” Hetzel said, adding that opening only one at first “gives them a live shop to test changes in menu offerings, store design and, perhaps, procedures quickly” without disrupting operating stores branded with the Starbucks name.
You can read the full story tomorrow in many newspapers that subscribe the AP feed, or find it online now on news websites, like CBS News. These syndicated articles tend to disappear after some length of time, so if reading this long after the event, you may need to search online to find a different copy. It’s unlikely that I will return to update the link.
In addition to what was quoted in the article, I have a few more thoughts:
The best of any specialty food businesses cannot exist on a large scale, so a smaller scale business will ultimately need to be spun off if Starbucks wishes to compete in the high end specialty coffee market.
Think of the situation in terms of a restaurant — the best fine dining restaurants are normally one single unit or a very small chain. Once you expand to two locations and beyond, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the same customer experience that could be found at the first. Chef skill, front of house training and availability of ingredients all become increasingly complex to maintain to a consistent level, so often sacrifices need to be made in the name of consistency over quality so that customers know what to expect when they walk through the door of every location. These problems multiply with 10, 100 and 1,000 units, and you can see what sacrifices Starbucks has made in order to grow beyond 16,000.
Just like a fine dining restaurant, the best of coffee shops have highly skilled baristas and often use unique coffees that may not be available in the quantities possible to serve a consistent menu at more than a handful of locations. I expect that we will be hearing more about this new concept over the next several months and possibly years.