Just as Starbucks announces its massive China flagships in the international market, today, the coffee brand launched its food revamp from bakery La Boulange in New York City, their largest rollout yet. Since 2012, when Starbucks bought San Francisco's La Boulange Bakery and hired founder Pascal Rigo to revamp its food line, the coffee chain has phased in higher-end baked goods to locations in the Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, Southern California, Chicago, Phoenix, and today, New York, adding on 500 new La Boulange Starbucks stores.
Of course, that's not all Starbucks has planned. Rigo tells The Daily Meal the La Boulange offerings are hitting up Boston next week, followed by San Diego, Sacramento, and the rest of California in January. By July 2014, all American Starbucks will be carrying the La Boulange line of food, Rigo hopes, and all with regional specialties. "We want to use our size for flexibility, not rigidity," Rigo says, noting that the baked products offered are created by local bakers; bringing the Boulange line of food to all American stores means pulling in 7,500 mini bakeries to make the croissants, cakes, and cookies fresh every day. While 75 percent of the offerings are slated to be set items, 25 percent will feature limited-time offerings, seasonal specials, and location-specific items, Rigo hopes.
This applies to sandwiches, too; in addition to introducing higher-end baked goods, the Starbucks brand is aiming to be the next lunch stop. "Subway has 140 customers between 11:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., and they sell 140 lunches a day on average," Rigo says. "Starbucks, we have 140 customers between 11:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., but we only serve eight lunches on average. That is a problem."
In terms of new products, this means testing sandwiches, wraps, and salads, with new lunch items currently testing in seven San Francisco stores (40 by October, a representative tells us). Notable items on the drawing board: Brisket sandwiches with aged Cheddar, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes wraps, curry chicken salad, orzo salad, grilled cheese, and a ham, caramelized onion, bacon, and crème fraîche wrap. Expect some major rollouts in summer 2014.
Follow that up with a new line of breakfast sandwiches (gluten-free eaters take note: a gluten-free sandwich bun is in the works), soups (think chicken noodle, roasted tomato, cream of mushroom), and "ethnic" specialties like chile rillenos, and Starbucks is looking at their largest food revamp, ever. "Starbucks is known to do customizable drinks, so I think customization is in Starbucks’ DNA," Rigo says. "That’s what we’re trying to do a little with food, by adding new possibilities."
And while Rigo never sees Starbucks with a kitchen ("I don't think we want to be a restaurant; we want to do great food fast."), he does see the revamp happening internationally, expanding to Canada (an October trip is in the works to hash out details), China, and the U.K. Currently, food only makes up 19 percent of retail sales, but Rigo hopes to change that. In the U.S. alone, Starbucks rack up $1.5 billion in sales annually from food (out of $8 billion total); "we think we can double that very easily," Rigo says.