Starbucks Goes Stealth for SoCal Testing of Beer, Wine Sales

We can only imagine the sophisticated levels of market analysis that preceded the decision to start testing “Starbucks Evenings” beer and wine sales in California at just two SoCal locations: Calabasas and Rancho Santa Margarita.

OC Register restaurant reporter Nancy Luna recently checked out the latter location with the newspaper’s “Good Libations” columnist Paul Hodgins. It’s not clear if the chain’s after-4 p.m. alcoholic-beverage options will be in future more prominently featured on the menu and advertised. For now, Luna notes that Starbucks is approaching it very subtly:

The barista counter does not showcase any bottles of beer or wine. A few small signs promote the upscale [“Small Bites”] food and wine list, but they are easy to miss. Paul and I agreed that the uninformed visitor would never know the cafe is selling alcohol.

Ahead of an official review, Hodgins says the four beer selections and various wines ($6-$15 a glass, $20-$45 a bottle) are fairly safe. “The malbec from Argentina was the only slight curveball,” he says. “Otherwise, I think they’re trying to appeal to the average California palate. .. Designed for the average wine drinker.” Read the full account of their visit here.

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.