When Did Starbucks Start Selling Food?

Starbucks is (almost) everywhere, visible while we're driving, shopping, or walking around the airport. There are nearly 16,000 Starbucks stores in the U.S., making the chances you have popped into one pretty high. If you're a Starbucks fan, you're likely happy to know that your usual coffee shop is always nearby, with your favorite drink included. Why does the world love Starbucks? Most people cite convenience and consistency as their top reasons on Reddit, adding that it's a great place to catch up, have a remote working session, or take a break for a quick meal.

While Starbucks always makes waves for its seasonal drink releases, secret-menu Frappuccinos, and constant updates in the beverage department, it's also becoming increasingly known for food items. Starbucks offers different breakfast sandwiches made with ciabatta, flatbread, or the classic English muffin filled with eggs, cheese, ham, and sometimes veggies. Pastries, cookies, loaves, and cake pops are also available for those who want to complement their coffee with something sweet. Selling these items is very profitable for Starbucks, with food accounting for 18% of the company's revenue. But would you believe that Starbucks didn't sell food in the beginning?

According to Britannica, a group of colleagues opened the first Starbucks store in 1971 for their love of high-quality coffee and tea, and food to go with it was not in the picture. After more than 30 years in business and opening stores overseas, the coffee chain finally expanded its menu.

It all started with breakfast in 2003

As reported by NBC News, Starbucks saw an opportunity in breakfast food in the early 2000s, when other fast food chains started upping their coffee service. The chain started small, with basic egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches being offered in the Portland area in 2003. Expansion from there was slow: It wasn't until 2006 that the chain began serving other types of sandwiches, and even then, they were only at around 600 stores. The sandwiches, which arrived frozen to be reheated by employees, got "mixed reviews" before recipes were adjusted. However, they took just 3 minutes to prepare and helped stores gain 3% more revenue each year, turning out to be a wonderful success.

In 2012, Starbucks bought the La Boulange bakery brand to amp up its lunch offerings, "with plans to double its food business by 2021," reported Forbes. The years in between brought customers the opportunity to buy Starbucks food items from new drive-thru stores, from the popular sous vide egg bites to the turkey bacon, cheddar, & egg white sandwich, which a Mashed survey found to be customers' favorite breakfast sandwich. Though the Starbucks food menu has evolved significantly in the last two decades, it's telling that some of its most popular items are still grab-and-go treats for the morning — nodding to its early days as a simple place for a coffee and a breakfast sandwich.