Starbucks is moving into evening wining and dining after opening a new cafe at Edinburgh Airport – only its second in the UK to serve up dinner and alcohol.
Passengers can order a range of “shareable” hot and cold dishes such as prawn and chorizo skewers and pulled pork chilli. A ten-strong wine list, including prosecco and rose, is complemented by Peroni lager and Magners cider.
The move comes two weeks after sandwich chain Pret a Manger launched a trial dinner service, complete with tabletop candles, at its Strand branch in London’s theatre district.
Starbucks started evening menus in the United States five years ago, followed by Stansted Airport in February. Experts predicted the firms would extend the service to other airports and train stations, along with city centre areas still busy at night.
Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at Stirling University, said locations passed by many people and those with higher “dwell times” would be the leading candidates. He said: “We will see more and more experimentation at certain locations. The cafe market is very competitive and firms will want to maximise the use of their shops since they have fixed costs.
“They will be trading off brand recognition – like Mars extending into milk drinks and Tesco moving into banking.”
Prof Sparks said the companies were following the lead of pub chains such as Wetherspoons, which had successfully introduced coffee and food in the morning.
He said rival coffee chains might follow Starbucks and Pret a Manger, though some might decide instead to continue to focus on hot drinks, to mark themselves out as “specialists”.
Dr Eric Laurier, senior lecturer in geography and interaction at Edinburgh University, said the innovations could provide European-style venues for going out.
He said: “If you go out at night in a British city, it’s a young people’s place.
“Coffee shops are an alternative space for socialising, for women, families and older couples.
“In Italy, Spain or France, you can sit in a cafe in the evening, read a newspaper or watch the world go by – but it’s a way of living that still has not happened here.”
However, Helena Childe, a senior food service analyst at Mintel, said the transition to dinner and alcohol could be problematic for the coffee chains.
She said: “It means they will be competing against different types of outlets, and people may prefer having a drink elsewhere.”
Starbucks spokesman Ian Cranna said: “With 10 million people passing through Edinburgh Airport last year, this is a great opportunity for us to offer these customers our new evenings menu.”