Recently, caffeine juggernaut Starbucks rolled out plans to start selling alcohol in many of its stores (and they’re not alone, as evidenced by our recent look at Denver’s best coffeehouses with booze). But wine and beer aren't the only side products the company has dabbled in: The jolly bean giant has spread its influence into pastries, books, CDs, snacks, breakfast sandwiches and coffee-related kitchen junk over the years, to varying degrees of success.
But therein lies the question: where else could Starbucks go, in terms of market spread, so as to eventually become the one-stop shop for anything even vaguely related to coffee? Here are just a few guesses as to where Starbucks could go next.
1) Ad Space
The folks at Starbucks have already made it clear that they’re in love with white space (unless it’s the holidays, in which case the white space is red space). But whatever the season, there’s usually plenty of open range, visually, on Starbucks’ cups — on the outside, on the inside, on the sleeve, on the lid, even on the little green splash-sticks and sugar packets. There are wide swaths of packaging real estate to sell, and like NASCAR and farmers with barns out along the interstate, Starbucks might as well make more money off what it's already got going. Stop trying to be artsy or wise; that’s Oprah’s job. Slap an ad for Jiffy Lube or KFC on there, and let’s get on with American life the way it’s meant to be: completely commercialized and run by a powerful corporate syndicate.
Look, there’s already a Starbucks in almost every grocery store you might patronize, so why not flip the script? It won’t change much: The Starbucks sign might be larger than the grocery chain’s on the exterior of the building, but the coffee bar will still be right up there at the front the store — peddling the first thing you can buy when you enter, along with a refill on your way out. And Starbucks already has its hand in a ton of products in the aisles of current supermarkets too, from snack foods to everything coffee to energy drinks. Do you really want Starbucks-brand produce? Of course you do. So long as it’s pumpkin spice.
3) TV Entertainment
How is there not a Starbucks cable network already? The original programming opportunities are huge: think a Cheers meets Two Broke Girls sitcom called Baristas, or a Gray’s Anatomy-type drama, only the McDreamy is the store manager and no one’s making enough money. For filler material, until the schedule gets built out, the network could buy exclusive rights to Friends (a coffee-friendly show if ever there was one, thank you Central Perk). Tap Gunther to be the channel’s spokesman, and that’s one station that will keep you up all night.
Niche-based tees are big in casual fashion these days, at least based on their proliferation online, where the slogan and logo collectors can get shirts based on every incredibly minor obsession they might dream up. (Huge fan of short-lived NBC fantasy dramas from the early 1980s? We have your Manimal shirt right here, sir.) Starbucks has some tees for sale already — mainly on the website — but the company could expand to polyester slacks, big-collared, bold-pattern button-downs, the occasional sun dress or mini, and leggings, leggings, leggings. This is a line that should be a natural for any amateur hipsters in your life, before they go pro and wear everything with a scoopful of delicious irony.
Starbucks could start small here: replicas of its own stuffed chairs or geometrically perforated beech-wood seats. But from there, it could stretch a little: couches made to look like coffee shop chesterfields; dining tables with built-in outlets for laptops and chargers; beds, because…well, who doesn’t like drinking coffee in bed? Look out, IKEA. There could be a new player on the block, and there’s no way that Swedish meatballs can compete with the pure lure of caffeine.
It’s one of the basic facts of American life that most of us need cars — so it’s a natural move from a company that’s increasingly supplying America with all other cultural requirements. If Starbucks partnered up with Tesla, we could soon see electric cars in logo green, latte tan, stirring-spoon silver, and I’ll-just-take-it-black. Add electric stations at every Starbucks location nationwide, and we’ve just solved the range issues for electric vehicles nationwide. (A priority lane for Starbucks cars at every drive-through would make this even more attractive.) The only downsides? Well, one, they’d probably call the vehicles “Carbucks,” and nobody wants to live with that joke for a decade of ownership. And two, if Starbucks partnered with Tesla, the resulting trendiness density could result in black holes where no light could escape the confines of any individual franchise (except those in airports, which seem to be exempt from everything).
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Every dispensary in marijuana-friendly Colorado already wants to become “the Starbucks of pot.” Who better to be the Starbucks of pot than…Starbucks? Face it: this is only a matter of time. Resistance (to pot) is futile — which is a line sure to be emblazoned on one of the aforementioned t-shirts. The circle is now complete.