Starbucks’ meatless store pilot ran in stealth mode
Vegetarians and vegans in the Seattle area who wanted to experience a version of Starbucks where all the food was suited to their dietary preferences had a chance to do so at some point last year, but they probably didn’t know it.
On an earnings call in January, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson made an offhand mention of a Starbucks location near the city which offered a menu of 100 percent plant-based food options, according to Food & Wine. He further referred to the location as a place meant for testing and innovation. A spokesperson from the chain later said that the test had concluded and there was no clarification on the location or the time frame when it occurred.
This is not the first time that Starbucks has done an under-the-radar test of a store concept with features differing from its main brand.
It was revealed in 2015 that the coffee giant had opened “Stealth Starbucks” locations in major markets. Stealth Starbucks locations, owned and operated by the company, are free of the chain’s branding and have a look and feel that varies from store to store. When news broke, one was operating in Seattle under the name 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea and another non-branded coffee shop was located on the second floor of Macy’s Herald Square. There were suspicions that many other such locations may have existed.
Although not typically done in secret, the practice of running one-off info gathering operations has grown more popular for brick-and-mortar retailers in the past few years.
7-Eleven, for instance, opened a single store in Dallas, called 7-Eleven Evolution, as a staging ground for new technologies. The store has been used to test such innovations as Just Walk Out technology modeled on Amazon Go.
The test concept, however, may be evolving into a sub-brand all its own. By the end of 2020, 7-Eleven had opened five Evolution stores, with plans to open more in 2021.
- Starbucks Quietly Tested an Entirely Plant-Based Food Location – Food & Wine
- Are Stealth Starbucks locations misleading customers? – RetailWire
- 7-Eleven’s new store concept is an Evolution in convenience – RetailWire
- 7-Eleven could be destined to undergo a konbinification – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see a location with all plant-based food offerings from Starbucks having wide appeal? What do you think of the practice of engaging in quiet experimental concept tests like this?