‘Starbs’ broadens its horizons

Starbucks manager Joseph Huynh (photo by Sonya Nov-San)
Starbucks manager Joseph Huynh (photo by Sonya Nov-San)

The president of Starbucks Canada, Rossann Williams, has announced plans for the popular coffee chain to innovate — including the introduction of wine and beer for an upcoming evening menu.

So your green-aproned, neighbourhood baristas might soon be able to pour you a tall glass of pinot noir as you unwind with an array of savoury tapas. Customers can look forward to enjoying various wines and pairing them with a selection of flatbreads, olives, nuts and cheese.

In a published interview, Williams said that major changes for the franchise are coming to Toronto and other major cities. In addition to adding alcoholic beverages to the menu, Starbucks is looking to implement a new pay-and-order feature, so customers can place orders using an app on their smartphone. This timesaving process will allows users to bypass lineups and pick up their order. Customers on their commutes can also expect more drive-thrus, including locations popping up on Hwy. 401.

Despite the success of “evening locations” in the U.S., the introduction of alcohol into the popular establishment has raised concerns among some Canadian clientele. Ashlee Mark is a 19-year-old Humber student and frequently consumes over two to three cups daily of Starbucks beverages.

“I’m not sure how good of an idea it is to have alcohol available at such a popular place where a lot of kids and young people hang out. It’s kind of like letting them into a bar. I can’t imagine them having bouncers at the door. Personally, I wouldn’t mind grabbing a drink in a quiet place with friends, but I think they have to be careful about letting underage customers in,” said Mark.

Williams told the Toronto Star that women are the target market, considering that they make up 60 per cent of the company’s clientele. The thinking is that many women want to enjoy a drink with friends but would rather not hang out at a bar.

“Our customers have given us a lot of feedback on what they want. They said they want innovation in beverages,” she said.

In Ontario, the legal drinking age is 19, but with a Smart Serve certification, anyone over the age of 18 can serve or sell alcohol. However, evening locations may be problematic for younger employees who will need to seek a manager or someone of age and certification to serve.

Joseph Huynh is a part-time Starbucks manager. He believes that the evening locations will bring the company a lot of success in its Canadian locations.

“If the the right regulations and standards are in place, there shouldn’t be too much of a problem. For instance, baristas might have to get their Smart Serve or something. Other than that, it’d be a great place for people to just mellow out and relax after a long day but don’t want to deal with the noisy bar scene,” said Huynh.

The evening locations’ operating hours will also differ from regular stores. Most Starbucks operate from 5:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. but if the evening locations are modelled after the existing American locations, then could operate from 4:30 a.m. until midnight.