Starbucks RESERVE…Judgement?

Last week we met a client in a new coffee concept in Covent Garden, Starbucks very own Star Reserve.

Starbucks have harvested everything related to coffee provenance and everything trending in Shoreditch, jammed it into a cramped and chaotic space, and called it ‘Star Reserve’.

Hip logo; check. Menu on a clipboard; check. Coffee prepared using mad science…check. Wines and spirits on display….errr….this is a Starbucks concept, right?

I understand the growth in casual dining traffic last year topped 11.6%[1] and that QSR Coffee concepts also did extremely well, however merging the two might not be what works. Or is it?

The 2014 EY insights report states that customers are looking for value and quality, and that needs to be represented in a differentiated customer experience. So I can see the rationale behind combining an experience from morning through to evening that delivers quality and value, but the brand message still wasn’t clear to me. And it looked like there was a little bit of “finger-crossing” going on behind the scenes.

Pret-a-Manger launched their #GoodEvenings offer on the Strand earlier this year. AND, as you would expect from the QSR service experts, you intuitively know what you’re getting. But that’s their brand character, isn’t it?

So I’m reserving judgement on the ‘Star Reserve’ concept. Can they make the leap to clarity and longevity, while simply getting it right?

The good news is that the client we met with is launching a bakery and coffee concept that will reinvent the morning-through-evening category. So seeing how Starbucks is trying to shake things up was a great way for them to see how important the right design-thinking is crucial. For now I think OUR brand development thinking is definitely much more focused on what works, rather than just hoping it’s on-trend.

But with a record number of new casual dining concepts opening up this Autumn, let me know which ones confuse, delight or wow you…

[1] NDP Group Analysis, published as part of EY Restaurant & Casual Dining Insight Report, Sept 2014.

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