Why Booze at Starbucks Never Caught On
The chain will stop selling beer and wine in over 400 stores
The news that Starbucks no longer serves alcohol might come as a surprise to many customers, if only because a lot of people never knew that you could order beer and wine at Starbucks at all. Called Starbucks Evenings, the evening menu was launched nationwide in 2014, and it offered up craft beer and glasses of wine along with tapas-type savory dishes. At the time of the program's launch, Starbucks executives told the Seattle Times that they hoped to offer this boozy menu at 25 percent of all U.S. stores by the end of the decade. But the idea of drinking wine at Starbucks and snacking on bacon-wrapped dates after 5 p.m. never really caught on with customers, which is why the Seattle-based coffee company is ending Starbucks Evenings in over 400 stores across the United States.
Part of the reason for lack of interest among customers was the limited reach of the Evenings program. Though 439 stores sounds like a lot of locations, Starbucks operates over 12,000 locations in the United States. That means the Evenings menu was only available in less than 4 percent of all stores, which isn't that many at all, and most of these were clustered in major cities, where happy hour spots are readily available.
Plenty of folks took to Twitter to complain about lack of evening availability in their cities.
Others expressed shock that program existed at all, only after accidentally coming across it at a Starbucks while traveling or, in Layne Ashley Weiss's case, visiting their grandmother.
The strange thing is that customers who did know about Starbucks' now-defunct alcohol program seemed to overwhelmingly like the idea. The problem was that no one really took advantage of it.
Starbucks' stated goal with the Evenings program was to fill the "demand for the casual meeting environment in the evening hours," according to a press release from 2015. But there's something about drinking at Starbucks after work that feels a little grim, especially if you've been working on your laptop there all day. Plus, most Starbucks customers take their drinks to-go, something that's impossible with a booze-focused menu.
Even aspirations of day-drinking were quickly nixed.
The dream of drinking at Starbucks doesn't have to die fully, though. You can still enjoy the Starbucks Evenings program at some airports; the Starbucks in Amsterdam's Airport Schiphol is apparently very nice.
The Starbucks Evenings program is still available in brick and mortar locations overseas, too. Japan, for instance, still has an evening alcohol program that seems way more exciting than the American version. When it first launched in March 2016, for example, Japanese customers could've ordered boozy Frappuccinos made with blueberry wine.
If you can't travel overseas but still want to drink at Starbucks, don't fret. Some Starbucks franchisees will still be offering booze in the evenings; this program closure only affects those stores owned by the company itself. And beer, wine, and even spirits will be served at some of Starbucks' newer—and nicer—Reserve and Roastery locations, indicative of the company's move toward more high-end, artisanal experiences.
So it's not good-bye, it's see you later. And hey, maybe Starbucks will take a hint from of their Japanese stores and come out with an alcoholic Frappuccino. I would definitely drink at Starbucks for that.