MOVE over macchiatos and muffins – truffle mac cheese and Malbec have joined the coffee shop menu as the first major chain experiments with evening dining in Scotland.
Starbucks this week opened a cafe at Edinburgh Airport which is only its second in the UK to offer dinner and alcohol.
Coffee shops are an alternative space for socialising, for women, families and older couples.Dr Eric Laurier
Passengers can order a range of “shareable” hot and cold dishes such as prawn and chorizo skewers and pulled pork chilli.
A ten-strong wine list, including prosecco and rosé, is complemented by Peroni lager and Magners cider.
The move comes two weeks after sandwich chain Pret a Manger launched a trial dinner service, complete with tabletop candles, at its Strand branch in London’s theatre district.
Starbucks, which has 43 Scottish outlets, started evening menus in the United States five years ago, followed by Stansted Airport in February.
Experts predicted the firms would extend the service to other airports and train stations, along with city centre areas still busy at night.
Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at Stirling University, said locations passed by many people and those with higher “dwell times” would be the leading candidates.
He said: “We will see more and more experimentation at certain locations.
“The cafe market is very competitive and firms will want to maximise the use of their shops since they have fixed costs.
“They will be trading off brand recognition – like Mars extending into milk drinks and Tesco moving into banking.”
Prof Sparks said the companies were following the lead of pub chains, such as Wetherspoons, which had successfully introduced coffee and food in the morning.
He said rival coffee chains might follow Starbucks and Pret a Manger in suitable locations where they could change the ambience in the evenings.
However, some might decide instead to continue to focus on coffee, to mark themselves out as coffee “specialists”.
Dr Eric Laurier, senior lecturer in geography and interaction at Edinburgh University, said the innovations could provide European-style venues for going out.
He said: “If you go out at night in a British city, it’s a young people’s place.
“Coffee shops are an alternative space for socialising, for women, families and older couples.
“In Italy, Spain or France, you can sit in a cafe in the evening, read a newspaper or watch the world go by – but it’s a way of living that still has not happened here.”
Helena Childe, a senior food service analyst at Mintel, said the transition to dinner and alcohol could be problematic for the coffee chains.
She said: “It means they will be competing against different types of outlets, and people may prefer having a drink elsewhere.”
Ms Childe said the change was part of a process which started in the US with distinctions between food and drink providers becoming increasingly blurred.
This has included fried chicken chain KFC selling burritos, and fast-food firms offering delivery.
Starbucks spokesman Ian Cranna said: “Starbucks Evenings is a natural progression for us as we seek to create a new occasion for customers to gather, relax and connect with each other, and provides more reasons to visit us later in the day.”
Pret a Manager said it was “far too early” to say whether evening dining would be extended to its other shops.
STARBUCKS plans to offer a range of quality food and drinks at its Edinburgh Airport outlet, in line with what the chain currently offers in the US at Dulles and Los Angeles airports.
The menu includes:
• Hot and cold dishes such as prawns and chorizo skewers
• Pulled pork chilli
• A choice of ten top wines, including prosecco and rosé
• Peroni lager and Magners cider will also be on offer