Starbucks Reserve Tests How Far it Can Stretch Consumers’ Wallets for a Cup

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Back on its game these days, one thing Starbucks is always eager to do is see how far its brand will stretch. Tea, juice and sodas? Those are naturals. Its own in-home coffee-brewing systems? A logical extension. Baked goods and yogurt? Maybe a bit far afield, but Starbucks can go there. Standing up for gay marriage? Well, it is a lifestyle brand.

But one thing that Starbucks hasn’t tried in a while is to stretch prices upward by a significant amount. Now the chain is doing so by planning to double the number of its locations around the world that offer the premium Clover brewing system and higher-end Reserve coffees by the end of next year, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.

Clover, which Starbucks acquired five years ago, is a brewing system that uses vacuum-press technology to prepare one cup at a time that takes longer and is more expensive than a regular Starbucks cup of joe—up to $7 in rare cases and certain markets, according to the publication.[more]

Confident in what Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has called “one of the most significant innovations in coffee brewing since the introduction of the espresso machine,” Starbucks already offers Clover at 500 Reserve locations within its 19,200-unit chain, in 25 US markets and 10 international markets. And Starbucks believes that more consumers are searching for a more “premium” coffee experience and willing to pay, typically, $1 or $2 more than they’re used to shelling out for a regular Starbucks concoction.

Apparently Starbucks also believes that Reserve coffees are conversation pieces too. “By brewing one cup at a time—using freshly ground beans to deliver that hand-crafted cup of coffee to order—the Clover brewing system brings theater to the brewing process and enables our baristas to have rich conversations with customers about our coffee,” said Andrew Linnemann, Starbucks’ vice president of global coffee, in a statement.

So, what Starbucks is saying is that better coffee, better technology and the “allure” of paying higher prices aren’t enough alone to ensure the success of Reserve. It all comes down to human resources.

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