Starbucks’ new Reserve bars push high-end coffee another notch higher

Starbucks opens its first local Reserve bar in a traditional store, testing a mix of high-end and conventional coffee offerings under one roof.

From the outside of the store on First Avenue and University Street in downtown Seattle, the green-mermaid Starbucks logo is as familiar as ever. But inside this Starbucks coffee shop, something new is going on.

On Tuesday, Starbucks is opening one of its regular stores at this busy intersection — but with the addition of a fancy new setup that will serve Starbucks’ high-end Reserve coffee beans, brewed with methods including pour-over, siphon and coffee press.

It’s what Starbucks is calling a Reserve coffee bar, located in one of its traditional, “core” stores.

Starbucks has rolled out the concept in 20 stores in a few U.S. cities, plus an additional 26 internationally. This is Seattle’s first core store with a Reserve bar.

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Eventually, Starbucks aims to install such Reserve bars in a fifth of all its stores.

The move comes as Starbucks focuses more attention on the premium end of coffee to grow its empire, while sales growth at its established stores has slowed down a bit this past year.

Indeed, Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ chairman and CEO, is stepping down from that position in April and will focus on growing the company’s premium businesses.

Those businesses include the Roasteries, the expansive showpieces that roast the company’s premium, small-lot Reserve coffee beans and serve Reserve coffees with the various brewing methods. Food at these Roasteries will be baked on-site by Italian high-end bakery Princi, which Starbucks bought into last year.

Another new concept Starbucks is launching is Reserve stores. These stores, sized between the Roasteries and traditional stores, will serve the premium Reserve coffee drinks, with the various brewing methods, along with Princi food. The first of these Reserve…

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