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Starbucks in Chicago to get alcohol

Starbucks in Chicago to get alcohol

Chicago will be the next market to see Starbucks locations selling beer and wine and expanded food offerings, the company said Tuesday.

Alan Hilowitz, director of corporate communications for Starbucks Corp., said five to seven locations — both new and existing — are scheduled to open or be remodeled in Chicago before the end of 2012 with the beer-and-wine options and new design elements.

The addition of alcohol is something the coffeehouse giant has been testing for about two years in its hometown of Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Currently, six Starbucks outlets offer beer and wine as well as various small plate options like almonds, bread with olive oil dip and salumi plates designed to accompany such beverages.

The goal was to explore ways to build sales later in the day, Hilowitz said. So far, units testing the format have shown double-digit same-store-sales increases after 4 p.m.

In Chicago, the format will no longer be considered in test, although Hilowitz said the company will continue to refine both menu offerings and the design of such locations.

“This is definitely not something we’re bringing to all new stores across the country; it will depend on the neighborhood,” he said. “It has to be right for the specific store.”

Hilowitz said the goal is to offer customers another occasion to visit Starbucks later in the evening for something other than coffee and cake pops.

“We want it to be a transitional place between work and home where people can stop for coffee in the morning, but where friends can stop in later and finish their day with a beer or a glass of wine,” he said. “Customers are telling us that’s what they want.”

Hilowitz said Chicago — with its East-Coast-meets-the-Midwest feel — is a good market to continue working on the new design.

When the chain was just starting out, Chicago also was the second market to have Starbucks stores, after Seattle.

Mobile payment systems

Chicago also is one of the cities where Starbucks customers like using their smart phones to pay and manage their loyalty accounts. Other top cities for mobile app adoption include New York, Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.

Starbucks said its mobile payment program in the first year recorded 26 million transactions.

For the last nine weeks, starting in October, the 6 million transactions were double the 3 million recorded in the first nine weeks of the program, the company said.

The mobile payment option is available in the company’s 7,000 company-operated stores across the United States, as well as in Starbucks locations in about 1,000 Target and 1,000 Safeway stores.

With the mobile Starbucks app, guests can pay using their smart phones. They also can manage their Starbucks Card accounts, find stores and check the status of their Starbucks Rewards.

Globally, Starbucks said customers loaded $2.4 billion onto their cards during fiscal 2011, and Starbucks cards are used in one in four transactions in the United States.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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