Will Starbucks Do For Wine What it Did for Coffee?

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Earlier in the week, Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) announced that it rolled out the “Starbucks Evenings” menu at a seventeenth location — specifically, Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. The Evenings menu, which was piloted in 2010, is a combination of appetizer-like dishes, wine, and beer meant to help wean the company off of its coffee dependence and open up its doors to a different crowd. It also represents a brave but still cautious step forward for a business defined by a carefully-crafted brand.

Will Starbucks do for wine what it did for coffee?

Starbucks did nothing short of revolutionize the way Americans drank coffee. Through careful brand management, quality control, and a relentless focus on the customer experience, the company entered a market already populated by companies like Dunkin’ Brands (NASDAQ:DNKN) and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NASDAQ:GMCR), and dominated it.

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Starbucks has grown revenues nearly 10 percent in each of the last three years, having taken a 5.8 percent top-line hit in the wake of the financial crisis in 2009. Earnings have grown over 10 percent in each of the last four years, climbing a tremendous 129 percent in 2010. The stock is up nearly 65 percent over the past two years and pretty much everybody who follows the company is bullish on it.

Once again under the competent leadership of Howard Schultz, who is CEO and Chairman, Starbucks looked around from its position at the top of the coffee industry and said “we can do more.”

In that spirit, it bought related beverage companies like Evolution Fresh and Teavana. It started testing an expanded bakery menu in California, and in Boston it began piloting wireless charging technology for smartphones built directly into tabletops. All of these moves were aimed at one goal: To make Starbucks the place you love — before work, before school, after school, after work (during lunch?), after the gym — whenever…

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