The coffee chain rolls out Mercato lunches in Chicago and cold brew cocktails in Seattle
Starbucks has another way to beat the afternoon slump.
The Seattle coffee chain rolled out its revamped lunch menu in Chicago this week, which is packed with high-protein, vegan and vegetarian dishes sprinkled with trendy ingredients like za’atar spice and cauliflower rice.
The new Mercato (the Italian word for “marketplace”) array of sandwiches, salads and sides run from $4.95 to $8.95, and are being sold in more than 100 downtown Chicago cafes for now, with plans to expand to the rest of the city later this year. A rep told Moneyish that Mercato meals will become available to other U.S. markets in the unspecified future.
“When developing the Mercato menu, we put quality, taste and freshness at the core of recipe development, with the goal to offer satisfying meals and snacks for our customers,” Starbucks chef Jane Hernandez said in a statement.
And it turns out, Starbucks customers are hungry for more lunch options. The chain reports that it has grown its food business by 1.5 times since 2013, and plans to double it by 2021. More surprisingly, more than 50% of its caffeine addicts actually come in after 11 a.m. Hello, lunch rush.
Folks who willingly plunk $4 or $5 down for a coffee or latte are looking for a higher quality grab-and-go lunch. So the Mercato meals attempt to deliver with dishes like the Cauliflower Tabbouleh Salad, which features chopped parsley, mint, cucumber, tomato and riced cauliflower with fresh lemon juice on arugula. Or there’s the grown-up spin on the PB&J with the Crunchy Almond Butter, Strawberries & Jam Sandwich, made of chunky almond butter, strawberry jam and fresh strawberry slices on Bavarian wheat bread.
And that’s not all. Starbucks is also raising the bar with its Reserve Cold Brew Mocktails at its Seattle Roastery. But the buzz you feel isn’t from alcohol. The Emerald City Mule mixes Starbucks Reserve Cold Brew and ginger beer infused with burnt cinnamon syrup and fresh lemon into a copper mug, and garnishes it with an apple slice. And the Cascara Lemon Sour shakes Cold Brew with Woodinville Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup and fresh lemon, and tops it off with a luxardo cherry and Cascara sugar.
Baristas handcraft each $8 beverage using bar tools and fresh garnishes. They’re only being served in the Coffee Experience Bar on the lower level of the Seattle Roastery for now. But as the company points out, beverages like these often make their way into other locations. “The menu has served as a pipeline of innovation for the company with beverages such as Cascara Latte and Affogato making their way into select Starbucks stores across the U.S.,” it writes.
So it may only be a matter of time before your afternoon coffee is upgraded to leave you feeling shaken and stirred.
Starbucks is jumping on the craft cocktails trend, as demand for specialty drinks has skyrocketed. MarketResearch.com notes that Mad Men’s Don Draper helped fuel this thirst, particularly among millennials.
“While Draper might have ordered a simple Old Fashioned (or three?) with lunch, today’s drinkers are more creative; cocktails with exotic inspirations — created, of course, by bartenders refashioned as “mixologists” — are de rigueur at many bars and a growing number of restaurants.”
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