Driven to Espresso: Drive-through Coffee Stands in the Northwest

If you think coffee culture is cool, you have come to the right place. I have loads of information and opinions to share about espresso in the Pacific Northwest, especially the drive-through phenomenon.

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Location: Edmonds, WA, United States

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Small drive-throughs are small businesses - or are they?

Well, they are small businesses now, at least. But a recent development has me wondering about the future.

The news broke last week that Starbucks is opening a few stores in Seattle that will not carry the Starbucks brand, using a unique look and feel, apparently to appeal to customers who prefer to patronize smaller, local businesses. Here is a reaction from the Chicago Tribune reporter, Steve Johnson. They will be stealth Starbucks cafes! They will also sell beer and wine. When you walk into one, you may not know—and probably won't—that they are owned by Starbucks.

So, the question that occurs to me, who is obviously more tuned in to the drive-through world, is whether or not they will extend this approach to the drive-through part of the coffee culture. After all, Starbucks has already shown interest in drive-through stands. Note that I differentiate between the drive-up windows at their cafes, and the small, stand-alone buildings that my book is about. When I say Starbucks has opened drive-through stands, I am not talking about the windows on their cafes, of which there are many, but of the few stand-alone stands they have built around the Seattle area. The one in my neighborhood does a booming business, by the way.

Will the next new stand you see opening up at a freeway interchange or along a commuter route be a Starbucks, even though it may be called something like Hot Java Hut?

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