All Aboard the Starbucks Express

Discussion
Nov 15, 2013

Retailers have certainly become attracted to mass transit of late. We’ve seen pop-up shops in subways, virtual shopping walls using QR codes and, of course, retailers have made great use of high-traffic airport, bus and train terminals. The latest news on the retail/transit connection front is that Starbucks has opened a full-service coffee shop on board a Swiss train.

Starbucks’ newest coffee shop will be on two floors with enough capacity to seat 50 people. The first floor will be used for ordering and takeout while the top will have seating for customers/passengers. The shop, which the coffee chain has emphasized is just a test concept, will take two trips a day between Geneva and St. Gallen over a nine month period beginning on Nov. 21.

"While Starbucks high quality coffee, store partners, service and experience remain consistent in our stores, we’re tailoring design to meet the needs of customers and creating more local relevancy by taking inspiration from local communities, the street, the city, the local coffee culture and in this case, the rail station," said Kris Engskov, president Europe Middle East & Africa at Starbucks, in a statement.

Making a Starbucks work on a train is no easy feat, according to Liz Muller, director of concept design for the company.

"We had to combine functionality and beautiful design, while taking into account a variety of factors such as the constant movement of the train, space limitation and stringent safety regulations," Ms. Muller said. "This is one of the smallest espresso bars and stores we have ever designed and is a result of a unique collaboration of experts, including local designers and engineers from SBB (Swiss Federal Railways)."

What do you think of Starbucks test of a store on a train in Switzerland? Do you see a day when the concept might be expanded to the U.S.?

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11 Comments on "All Aboard the Starbucks Express"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

This is a very exciting and innovative idea for Starbucks, and it will be very successful. Commuters will love it and the lines will be long, even on the train. Yes, I think it will work in the United States in the regions where trains are used for commuting, as long as the ride is long enough for pragmatic reasons.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Another example of a brand operating on all cylinders. I can see this come to pass on Amtrak commuter lines in the northeast sooner rather than later.

Ron Margulis
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Amtrak can use all the help it can get, and Starbucks might be a great replacement of their Caf Cars. Every time I take the Acela to/from DC, half the coffee cups on the train are from Starbucks anyway. Add some sandwiches and other beverages, and you’ve got a nice selection for the passengers. Not dissimilar to the Amazon – US Post Office deal, the private sector could come to the rescue again!

Robert DiPietro
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Absolutely – put one on the Metro North today! Or the Acela. Customers on certain legs of the rail would welcome a higher quality retail experience, whether it be Starbucks or Chipotle.

I don’t have the stats handy on ridership, but I’m assuming having a captive audience will help sales.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

The cost per square foot of real estate on these trains spread over the one and done customer culture is going to put these travelers and their willingness to pay large for a grande to the test for sure. Marketing types will play with this data for quite some time. As for the investment opportunity in this idea, I would rather have a dime for all those out there that are shaking their heads back and forth while reading this plan all the way through.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Great and innovative thinking on Starbucks part. I see this happening sooner here. Watch out Amtrak riders. You are next.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

As most here noted, there’s a natural market for this in the Northeast Corridor, and the few other spots where rail travel remains viable (LA-San Diego, etc.), though outside of that the options are limited. But even in the aforementioned areas, would Amtrak – or whoever their current concessionaire(s) is(are) be open to the change? The articles are short on details of the financial arrangements.

Martin Mehalchin
Guest
Martin Mehalchin
8 years 6 months ago

Well maybe in the Northeast corridor, but sitting here on the West Coast, I can only wish that our public transportation was anything like Europe’s.

I do think this is a great move for Starbucks in Europe. It shows them innovating in a way that fits the European market and demonstrates an understanding of the local consumer. Plus those train cars make for great OOH advertising.

Liz Crawford
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

I will drink them in a plane, I will drink them in a train. I will drink them, Sam I am.

Sure – anywhere you have traffic or a captive audience is a great place for a Starbucks. ‘Nuff said.

Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
8 years 6 months ago

I think it’s a great idea. I’m guessing that Starbucks, or just about any other vendor that offers commuters on a 3 hour ride an escape from their seat, will experience success. The only caveat there is what Starbucks is paying for that captive audience. In the end, it’s only successful if it’s profitable.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Brand ubiquity drives success. The most successful brands go wherever their best clients and prospects may be. Regardless of whether it’s trains, planes or automobiles – or tennis courts, malls, etc.

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