Following the success of its pilot store in Cardiff, Starbucks has partnered with Euro Garages to open 30 drive-through coffee shops across the UK, at both service stations and as standalone sites. Starbucks' brand value, the convenience of the drive-through format, and a growing trend of eating-on-the-go among young consumers suggest that this collaboration has every chance of being a success.
The first drive-through Starbucks has already been opened at Euro Garages' BP site in Deeside, North Wales, and by the end of 2010, seven more branches will open across the country, including two in Shrewsbury, Shropshire and Runcorn, Cheshire that will open within the next few weeks. The remaining stores will be opened by 2013.
Euro Garages is an independent forecourt operator with 84 sites located in the North of England and the Midlands. Through this partnership, Starbucks will have a large potential customer base, as the majority of Euro Garages' service stations are situated in high density residential locations, business parks and on main roads and motorways. The forecourt operator also has partnerships with other convenience product retailers such as Subway, Gregg's and Spar, which help in attracting more customers to its sites. For Euro Garages, the Starbucks brand name and its hot beverage offering will complement its existing convenience product portfolio.
Drive-through coffee shops will enable Starbucks to cash in on the growing trend of eating-on-the-go, which is especially prevalent among younger consumers. According to Datamonitor research, UK motorists aged 18-35 place a higher importance on food service when choosing a service station compared to consumers aged above 35. Therefore, this venture may prove to be profitable for both companies, should they succeed in tapping into this customer segment.
There has been a proliferation of retail brands on the UK forecourt in recent years arising from collaborations between oil companies and retail chains, such as Shell/Waitrose and BP/M&S. Such deals have served to expand the product offerings at forecourt shops; however, many have struggled to market the new product ranges and services to consumer effectively. Consequently, consumers have become increasingly unsure of the overall forecourt offering.
There is now a pronounced need to develop a strategy to effectively communicate the forecourt convenience offer to the end consumer. In this context, it will be interesting to see how the Euro Garages/Starbucks partnership faces this challenge, and whether or not it is able to develop a clear positioning for the brand in the somewhat cluttered UK forecourt space.