Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX ) is moving beyond pouring out just caffeinated kicks. The baron of baristas is expanding its test of offering a limited menu of alcohol at its upscale coffee shops. COO Troy Alstead told Bloomberg this week that after testing an evening menu of drinks and light bites that include Malbec wine and bacon-wrapped dates at roughly 40 stores that it's ready to roll out the program to thousands of locations.
The alcohol won't work at every location, naturally. Alstead also points out that Starbucks will be taking its time here. The rollout will take years -- not weeks or months -- to complete.
The move shouldn't come as a surprise to those watching Starbucks over the years. Coffee is mostly a morning beverage. To drum up more store traffic later in the day, we've seen Starbucks introduce iced drinks and baked food items. Trying to spruce up the night shift with a tapas-like menu isn't as radical a departure as you might think.
Starbucks isn't the only unexpected place to get a drink on. Let's go over three more surprising places with alcohol on the menu.
Chuck E. Cheese
Someone's first visit to Chuck E. Cheese is probably a pretty jarring scene. There are kids running around with pizza grease-stained fingers, playing arcade games. A costumed mouse comes out to greet kids celebrating birthday parties. When children aren't working their way through tube mazes or ball pits, they're checking out an audio-animatronic show starring the chain's signature mascot. Against this backdrop, parents are laying back as they sip glasses of wine or downing pitchers of beer.
Yes, Chuck E. Cheese does serve beer and wine. How do you think parents get through the sensory overload?
Investors were able to buy into Chuck E. Cheese until earlier this year, when Apollo Global Management acquired the 577-unit chain in a $1.3 billion transaction. Don't worry about the transition. Beer and wine remains on the menu.
Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Disney (NYSE: DIS ) buffs know that the Disney World resort in Florida isn't just for kids. Its on-site hotels offer watering holes for parents to unwind at the end of a long day at the parks, and even most of its theme parks don't flinch at serving up hearty libations. Epcot, after all, hosts the annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival every fall. And even before that event became a crowd magnet for foodie revelers, there was the unofficial "drink around the world" experience, where folks would stop for alcohol at each of the country pavilions that make up the World Showcase.
However, Florida's original Magic Kingdom attraction refrained from selling alcohol until late 2012, when New Fantasyland opened. The park's expansion features the Be Our Guest themed restaurant that's a hard reservation to get for dinner and the lines for the lunch service can be as long as many of the park's iconic rides. The evening meals come with a complete menu of beer and wine that includes sparkling, white, red, and dessert wines alongside imported beers from France and Belgium. You might end up acting goofy before you ever see Goofy.
Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG )
The fast-growing burrito roller has offered beer for years, and last year it introduced margaritas. Chipotle made the move 11 months ago, mixing up Patron silver tequila, triple sec, agave nectar, and fresh lime as premium margaritas in more than half of its restaurants.
Mexican restaurants and alcohol tend to go hand in hand, but that hasn't been the norm on the quick-service side. Yum! Brands' (NYSE: YUM ) Taco Bell is dry on that front. Its current "Happier Hour" promotion that runs from 2 to 5 p.m. daily offers $1 medium-sized drinks that are limited to carbonated sodas, freezes, and iced teas. However, Chipotle toils away in the "fast casual" niche that straddles the speedy convenience of Taco Bell-like fast food chains with the higher-quality offerings found at Mexican casual-dining establishments. For now, that includes beer and margaritas at Chipotle.
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