Starbucks has opened a new store. Err – nothing new there. But this isn’t just another Starbucks; it’s a coffeehouse known as 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea.
Apparently, it’s the first of three remodeled stores in the Seattle area. Each store will be presented as a community coffeehouse, bearing the name of its neighborhood, rather than the coffee-shop giant to which it belongs.
You won’t find the Starbucks logo at the stores, but you will see the words “inspired by Starbucks” at strategic locations throughout the interior of the cafés.
The new coffeehouses will serve wine and beer, offer pastries, host live music and poetry readings and make espresso without the automated machines.
With a license to serve alcoholic beverages, the stores are positioned to capture a greater share of evening traffic. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Most of Starbucks’ revenue usually comes in during the morning and afternoons. Now, they can go after a greater share of the pie.
Starbucks says they’re experimenting with stores that have a stronger community personality.
Now, let’s be clear. This is just a test right now for Starbucks. They’re going to see how these stores do and then possibly expand to other cities.
And in my mind, it’s a worthwhile experiment and a brand move worthy of CHAMP status.
The first thing I thought of when I heard of this concept is Chicago, a town I always enjoy visiting. I like Chicago as a whole, but I especially appreciate that it’s a city of neighborhoods, each one with a distinct character.
One of my work colleagues happened to move to Chicago and he confirmed what I had already heard and come to know: locals know where to go in their neighborhood… for drinks, coffee, socializing, whatever… And not only do they know where to go, but they also hold a strong sense of brand loyalty to those establishments.
I believe Starbucks has the chance to foster a whole new set of brand loyalties with its neighborhood coffeehouse concept. They can continue to deliver consistency and quality, but with much more flexibility to deliver the compelling, distinctive environments and experiences consumers increasingly thirst. You can’t do that as a chain. You just can’t.
Some say Starbucks is actually working to un-brand itself, but I don’t see it that way.
Why would Starbucks want to do that? The brand equity in the Starbucks name is too great. We’re not talking about a brand in tremendous trouble here. Profits may not be what they once were, but the Starbucks logo isn’t in any danger of going away and traditional Starbucks stores aren’t either.
I see a coffee powerhouse that’s recognized the value in going beyond a single brand. With its neighborhood coffeehouses, Starbucks can offer consumers something more. No longer confined to the cookie cutter model, new stores can be creative and offer an exceptional distinctiveness, all the while enjoying the full backing of the Starbucks brand.
I also don’t see this move as a departure from the brand’s essence. Sure, Starbucks is recognized today as a coffee chain. But serving as the neighborhood coffeehouse was one of the core ideas upon which the Starbucks brand was founded. Seen in that light, we might say Starbucks is returning to its roots.
So, I like Starbucks’ direction on this one. Do you? Is the neighborhood coffeehouse concept a champ or chump move? Share your thoughts.