Starbucks has one of the strongest brands in the business, but that doesn't mean it can't become even stronger. The company has recently been on an innovation tear, putting its money and resources toward cloud-based coffee brewers and fine tea bars.
Check out these three ways Starbucks is innovating – and let it be a lesson to business owners everywhere that even when you're at the top, you can always look for ways to improve.
1. It's getting 'techier'
Over the next year, Starbucks plans to double the number of Starbucks stores utilizing its cloud-based Clover coffee-brewing machines to 1,000. Clover coffee machines control brew time and temperature digitally, using cloud technology to update recipes, track customer preferences and monitor coffee makers’ performance.
While the Clover brewing system sounds like it’s from the future, the Web-based brewers have been around since 2007. In 2008, Starbucks bought the Coffee Equipment Company of Seattle, maker of the Clover brewer.
In addition to upping the number of stores using Clover, Starbucks is investing in new web technologies, such as networking coffee makers, refrigerators and appliances, according to a Starbucks spokesperson.
Starbucks is known for being on top of its digital game – both in and out of stores. An estimated 94 percent of all Facebook users either "Like" Starbucks on Facebook or have a friend who does, and the company's mobile app is the most downloaded food and drink app in the industry.
2. It's pushing tea
Starbucks will open its first Teavana Fine Teas + Tea Bar in New York City on Thursday. This is the first store of its kind that Starbucks is opening. “Tea has been a part of Starbucks heritage since 1971, when we were founded as Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spices,” says Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in a statement. “This new store concept elevates the tea experience in the same way we’ve done for coffee.” Starbucks acquired Teavana for about $620 million last November.
The coffee chain plans to open a second Teavana Fine Teas + Tea Bar in Seattle’s University Village in November. Other cities in the U.S. can expect the arrival of tea bars in 2014.
3. It's overhauled its food options
In September, Starbucks began rolling out offerings from La Boulange, a San Francisco bakery chain it acquired in June 2012. Starbucks has, for a long time, struggled with its food selections. Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, has been quoted saying “Some people have said our food is not much better than cardboard, which I think is a fair criticism.”
La Boulange’s culinary reputation serves as a booster for Starbucks’s own brand. With pink coffee sleeves highlighting the updated offerings, Starbucks has attempted to raise awareness of La Boulange and make the food integral to its coffee shop experience. The public will soon find out if the changes have paid off when Starbucks announces its fourth quarter and fiscal year financial results next Thursday.