The Washington Post

Starbucks happy hour is retailer’s latest effort to expand its reach

Though a trip to Starbucks is undoubtedly part of many people’s morning rituals, it’s probably not a place they think of to unwind after work during happy hour. But with its latest announcement, the Seattle-based coffee chain has indicated it’s trying to change that.

The retailer said today it plans to offer beer, wine and what it has dubbed “premium food offerings” at select locations in Southern California and Georgia. These stores will join a handful in Seattle and Portland, Ore., where this expanded menu is already available.

Starbucks says the new menu items will include “savory snacks, small plates and hot flatbreads” and that the selection of alcoholic beverages will be tailored to preferences of local customers. As part of the push, the company says it will rethink its seating arrangements at those locations so that patrons can use the space for meetings of community groups or clubs.

The move is part of an effort to boost profits by making Starbucks more of an around-the-clock destination. Other fast-food chains have made similar leaps in recent years, with sandwich shop Subway adding a breakfast menu and Dunkin’ Donuts venturing into lunch offerings.

Starbucks isn’t the only food retailer to announce a menu shake-up in the last week. Taco Bell unveiled on Friday a plan to add breakfast options to its menu. It is also slated to add more upscale items aimed at helping it compete with Chipotle, the fast-casual eatery whose stock was one of the 10 best-performing on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in 2011.

Do you think the menu makeovers will actually give these eateries a boost? Any of these new selections sound appealing to you? Tell us in the comments section.

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Starbucks aims to bring in more patrons

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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