In an era when consumers’ tastes are becoming increasingly fickle, Starbucks has been a constant. It’s the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with more than 20,000 locations nationwide as of December 2013, more than half of those in the United States. But where exactly did it come from?
Starbucks was founded in 1971 by three friends who met at the University of San Francisco, and the first location, in Seattle, only sold whole roasted coffee beans, not brewed coffee. The founders planned on naming the company Pequod, after the whaling ship from Moby Dick, but after that name was rejected they decided to instead name it after the ship’s first mate, Starbuck.
The company grew in popularity over the next several years, introducing brewed coffee and espresso, and by the time former employee Howard Schultz bought it in 1987 there were six locations. Schultz implemented a rapid expansion program, and when the company went public in 1992, there were 140 outlets, with revenues of $73.5 million (as opposed to $1.3 million in 1987). In 2013, total revenues were $14.89 billion.
As the company continued to take over the world, management decided that the time was ripe to branch out from just coffee and introduce some food items. While only one in three Starbucks transactions includes food, the company is working hard to make Starbucks just as valid a culinary option as a coffee option. In 2012, they purchased the La Boulange bakery chain for $100 million and have been working to overhaul the menu via a $1.5 billion food program. Because there are no kitchens in Starbucks, they’ve shifted to a frozen-food model, with hot items being reheated on the spot, and it seems to be working well. La Boulange pastries will be available at locations nationwide by the end of 2014, and upgraded breakfast sandwiches and new lunch options will be rolled out by then as well.
On the beverage side, the brand continues to look beyond coffee. They’ll be rolling out a line of “handcrafted” sodas within a couple months, and continue to expand the reach of its line of teas, Teavana.