An image of a Starbucks sign

What Is Your Mental Model of Starbucks? Can It Include Beer and Wine?

What do you think of Starbucks rolling out a bar to attract a later crowd? Right now, most of their business is not just coffee and muffins, but it is also concentrated on the morning hours. Even though they stay open later, business really tanks.

The coffee chain plans to roll out alcoholic beverages to thousands of stores over the next few years as part of a program it calls Starbucks Evenings, which starts after 4 p.m.

You might ask why this is relevant for EID. I am framing my question in terms of mental models. When Starbucks rolled out their lunch menu, they took great pains to keep the brand narrative (what marketers call the customer mental model ☺) consistent. The lunch sandwiches looked an awful lot like the breakfast sandwiches. You could get some fruit or granola to go with your breakfast coffee – you could get some fruit or granola to go with your lunch Panini.

But can you expand this mental model with beer and wine? Have you ever had beer and a banana? A Chardonnay and a yogurt? Or if they totally pull the food shelf at 4pm and bring out the pretzels, beer nuts and pizza? Can the user’s brain make that shift without cognitive dissonance?

I am curious about your thoughts on this. It is a great overlap between HF and marketing. A great opportunity to expand our discipline to other areas of the organization.

Image credit: “Starbucks Coffee, York” by Ian Britton used under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

2 thoughts on “What Is Your Mental Model of Starbucks? Can It Include Beer and Wine?”

  1. Thanks for the article. What an interesting observation! One way this could work is by tweaking the beverages themselves so they fall outside of the customers’ established mental models. What if you offer primarily flavored beers like pumpkin or honey beers as they are currently popular in the US? Could the customer accept this? How about sweet wines like ice wines or even mead? Then again, this could restrict the customers’ choices too much – at a store that is notorious for its overwhelming options.

  2. Hmmm…I think a consumers’ mental model could be modified with a HEAVY marketing campaign and the right spin. Their food offerings have had some success although a little part of me dies when I see someone eating prepackaged food from there. Didn’t they also at one time try to offer an expanded evening menu with tapas like food? I don’t think it went well.

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