Beer, wine coming to select Toronto Starbucks locations

Apr 5, 2016 | Biz/Tech

Nick Westoll

Starbucks started serving alcohol and new appetizers at select Toronto locations Tuesday, but one business expert said the move is an experiment that still needs to be assessed.

“If it turns out people would rather have a glass of wine or have a little tapas, rather than having a cookie and a cup of coffee, then it will stay on,” Marvin Ryder, an associate professor specializing in marketing and business strategy at McMaster University, told Humber News.

“In some cases Starbucks is responding to their competition, in other cases they may lead people down this road – but if and only if it gets to be successful.”

As a part of the Starbucks Evenings menu, which is available daily starting at 2 p.m., customers will be able to buy from a rotating selection of craft beers and ciders ($6-8) as well as local and international sparking, red and white wines ($9-13).

However, the new offerings are only available in three neighbourhoods at the following locations:

3079 Bloor St. W. (west of Royal York Road)
446 Spadina Rd. (north of St. Clair Avenue West)
1740 Avenue Rd. (north of Lawrence Avenue West)

The chain has been busy preparing for the expanded offerings. In order to sell and serve alcohol, a Starbucks Canada spokesperson said through a statement staff at the locations had to undergo “extensive training” including Smart Serve certification.

The spokesperson said future locations haven’t been confirmed, but added the company hopes to roll the menu across Canada.

Ryder speculated we will likely only see this concept in major urban centres such as Toronto, adding the move isn’t a stretch given how consumers understand the brand.

“Since they’ve already gone to a little higher end, I think this is constant with an image we have. And they don’t have to do very much other then clarifying when does the (evening menu) change happens.”

Starbucks is also introducing new food items such as truffle macaroni and cheese ($8.95), chicken sausage and mushroom flatbread ($7.95) and spinach artichoke dip with pita chips ($8.95).

Ryder suggested the company might have some work to do when it comes to marketing the appetizers since many customers typically associate cafes with places to get snacks compared to more substantive food items.

“Whether Starbucks can be a coffee house during the day and a bistro at night, I don’t know if we’re prepared to go that far,” Ryder said. “My gut feeling is that the change in the liquid refreshment will work just fine, but the change on the food side of it may not be that successful.”

However, Ryder recognized the chain for trying something new.

“I give them full credit. I think in the world of business you’ve got to constantly be tinkering and experimenting seeing what consumers respond to,” Ryder said.