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Starbucks Revamps Beverage Alcohol Approach With New Reserve Stores

March 21, 2018

After experimenting with beverage alcohol in different formats over the years, Starbucks is taking a fresh approach to the category, marked by the opening of its first Reserve store. Located on the ground floor of Starbucks’ global headquarters in Seattle, Washington, Starbucks Reserve SODO includes a full bar and is the first of up to 1,000 Reserve stores the coffee giant eventually plans to open globally. The concept, which is part of Starbucks’ upscale Siren Retail portfolio, is expected to help grow the company’s evening and weekend traffic and further premiumize its business.

“Successful physical retailers have some blend of experiential retail. In other words, giving your customers a reason other than just your product to come into your stores,” Starbucks Corp. executive vice president and chief financial officer Scott Maw said recently. “[Siren Retail gives us] the ability to extend experiential retail and premiumize,” Maw added, with aperitivo-style cocktails and food as part of the offering.

Opened late last month, Starbucks Reserve SODO is about four times the size of a traditional Starbucks and features a full bar that will be open in the afternoons and evenings. The bar’s menu centers primarily on traditional Italian cocktails such as the Aperol Spritz, Milano Torino, and Negroni Sbagliato, with signature coffee cocktails, beer, wine, and spirits also offered. Additionally, the SODO location includes a Reserve coffee bar, offering a range of brewing styles and coffee drinks, as well as an outpost of Italian bakery and café brand Princi, in which Starbucks became an investor in 2016. A second Reserve store is slated to debut in Chicago in 2019.

The Reserve store’s debut follows Starbucks’ decision to refocus its approach to beverage alcohol. Last year, the company discontinued its former “Evenings” program, which had been offering beer and wine at more than 400 Starbucks coffee stores across the U.S. With the addition of cocktails and a full bar to the mix under the new Reserve format, the coffee giant is upping its game in the category.

In addition to the Reserve concept, Starbucks currently operates two Roastery outlets—which are a larger interpretation of the Reserve store format—in Seattle and Shanghai, with long-term plans to open 20-30 Roastery locations worldwide. The company is set to unveil Roasteries in Milan and New York later this year, as well as in Tokyo next year, furthering the high-end Siren Retail program.—Christina Jelski

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