Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) has finally taken over the world -- Disney World. The baron of baristas opened a store inside Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Animal Kingdom on Friday, taking over the old Creature Comforts store.
Swapping stuffed Simba dolls and Pooh-on-safari toddler t-shirts for java chip Frappuccinos may seem counterproductive to Disney's plan for global domination of its in-house brands. But adding a Starbucks at a theme park seems to be a rite of passage for the family entertainment giant these days.
Since Starbucks took over the iconic Main Street Bakery in the Magic Kingdom two years ago, Disney has been welcoming it as a tenant at its Florida theme parks. With Friday's arrival at Animal Kingdom, we can say that a Starbucks double latte is within reach of park guests at all four of the Disney World theme parks.
This is a pretty big deal. Disney doesn't usually let outside brands take over entire storefronts. A decade ago it did let McDonald's take over most of the menu of a dinosaur-themed restaurant in Animal Kingdom and a food kiosk in the Magic Kingdom, but that went away in a flurry of criticism about Disney promoting childhood obesity by helping Mickey D's sell its fried offerings.
Starbucks isn't exactly healthy, either. However, the Starbucks brand has achieved a level of cool -- particularly with teens and millennials who may not view Disney World in the same fashionably forward way -- that makes it a smart decision. Magic Kingdom's Main Street Bakery was never a flurry of customer activity before its Starbucks makeover two years ago -- now it is. The observation is the same at the other three Disney World locations to get the Starbucks treatment.
However, this is also big for Starbucks. Last year, Disney World attracted 51.5 million guests to its four theme parks, according to industry watcher Themed Entertainment Association. This also includes a ton of international tourists who may be experiencing Starbucks for the first time.
Validation goes both ways with this partnership: Starbucks fans see Disney in a new light, and Disney fans see Starbucks in a new light. It's mutual brand affirmation, and it's hard to fathom any other brand but Starbucks ever having the honor of going four-for-four in Disney's popular gated attractions.