Starbucks to add beer and wine to Canadian menu

Fancy an adult beverage? Soon, you won't have to look any further than your local Starbucks.

Coffee chain currently sells alcohol at locations throughout the U.S.

Fancy a glass of Pinot Grigio or a pint of cold pilsner? Soon, you won't have to look any further than your local Starbucks.

The world's largest coffee chain says it plans to serve wine and beer at some select Canadian locations by the end of the year.

The pilot program, called Starbucks Evenings, will offer customers a menu of wine, beer, and small plates like olives, nuts and cheese after 4 p.m.

Specific locations for the pilot project have yet to be confirmed, a Starbucks Canada spokesperson said.

The company first tried out the concept in some U.S. cities earlier this year as part of an aggressive push to expand into other offerings besides coffee.

One of its pilot cities was its hometown of Seattle and it also tested alcohol sales in the Quebec market.

Gaining customers in the evening

The move to serve alcohol is a good one at a time when there is unlikely to be an increase in the number of Canadians eating out over the next few years, said Robert Carter, executive director food services, NPD Group.

"It makes sense. When we take a look at the restaurant segment in Canada, the expectation of growth over the next couple of years is relatively flat," he said in an interview with CBC News.

At the same time, there is fierce competition for customers among mid-market restaurant chains.

"In this environment, you really need to look at how you expand beyond your core offering to attract customers to your restaurants. This is a natural progression for Starbucks to expand into other areas," Carter said.

He said Starbucks has been a leader in innovation in the drinks sector. Adding alcohol and a form of tapas will appeal to its customers and help draw more business in the evenings.

Starbucks Canada president Rossann Williams told The Star the company believes women, who make up 60 per cent of Starbucks’ customers, will enjoy a drink with friends in a coffee shop, instead of a bar.

She also said Starbucks may look at creating more drive-through locations as well as express walk-up stores with limited offerings.

Starbucks already sells sandwiches, salads and specialty drinks. It has been trying to capture more sales throughout the day, instead of just those rushing in for their early morning caffeine fix.

Starbucks said it will also launch a new bakery line called La Boulange in Canada, starting on March 3.

With files from CBC News