Could Starbucks Make Coffee Delivery Work In Bellingham?

The days of sending the intern out for your afternoon caffeine boost may finally be coming to an end. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz recently announced that the company is planning to roll out delivery service in select locations in 2015. Given Bellingham’s close proximity to Seattle, and the abundance of local Starbucks locations, it’s not unreasonable to believe the service could be brought here. The real question is this: if Starbucks does decide to bring delivery to Bellingham, will people use the service?

At first glance, it might seem like delivery coffee would be a no-brainer in these parts. Seattle has topped several lists for per-capita coffee consumption in the U.S., and Bellingham’s habits are quite similar. As recently as 2005, Bellingham ranked #4 nationally on an NPD study of coffee shops per capita. Walking through downtown means passing at least one location serving coffee every block. Why wouldn’t we spring for an even more convenient way to caffeinate ourselves?

Person Holding Coffee Cup in Bellingham Starbucks

But therein lies the potential obstacle for delivery coffee: we’re already doing a solid job caffeinating ourselves. As a city of coffee lovers, Bellingham has done a lot to make sure we can get our cup of joe whenever we need it. Either there’s a storefront within walking distance, or we have a coffee maker at home, or – in many cases – some combination of the two. Sure, getting a custom Starbucks drink without having to get out of your chair would be convenient, but it would also be expensive.

According to an article in USA Today, industry experts believe that Starbucks wouldn’t be able to make delivery cost-effective without minimum orders of at least $15, with $25 being a more realistic estimate. If Starbucks also charges a delivery fee, that grande no whip half-caff mocha starts looking pretty steep.

Of course, one potential solution for consumers is to combine orders, especially in an office setting.. Because Starbucks plans to operate the service through their existing app, the company could integrate a system for including multiple accounts on one order.

That still limits your order to only colleagues with a Starbucks account, though. If everyone has to order something each time one person wants a coffee, walking down the street or using the coffee maker in the break room doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Another concern voiced by hospitality experts is atmosphere. To date, Starbucks has branded itself as an environment to enjoy in and of itself, rather than a place to get your fix and leave. The company website states that Starbucks should be “a place for conversation and a sense of community.” That piece of Starbucks branding is lost if your only conversation happens between you and the delivery person. It’s no secret that Starbucks prices aren’t the cheapest in the industry, but enjoying the location is part of what makes the cost worth it. Stripping that aspect away, while potentially charging, more doesn’t make much sense.

Starbucks store and bike Bellingham

It’s still early days for the concept of delivery Starbucks. All we really know is that the company is working on it. Schultz and his staff have shown remarkable ingenuity in the past, succeeding even in markets like China, where coffee makes up only 1% of the hot-drink market. In their hands, delivery coffee may become a standard part of life in the coming years.

In Bellingham specifically, however, it seems unlikely to take off. There are businesses in areas which are far enough removed from coffee shops that delivery might appeal to them. In time though, the storefront will come to them. Businesses such as Cascade Latte have already attempted a similar service without much success. Viking Food has partnered with the Black Drop to deliver coffee as well, but their business model goes far beyond just hot drinks.

With a host of other competitors who receive plenty of business without delivery, such as Woods Coffee and Cruisin Coffee, Starbucks would need to offer some big incentives to make delivery economical.

We’d love to hear what you think about getting Starbucks delivered in Bellingham. Is it the best idea you’ve ever heard? Never pay for it in a million years? Let us know in the comments below!

Tobias Osterhaug

Tobias Osterhaug

Tobias is a full-time contributor to Bellingham Business News, covering local business events, tech news, and advice for job seekers in the Bellingham area. He graduated from Western Washington University with a double major in History and Chinese Language & Cultural Studies, and has previously worked as a coordinator in Western’s Writing Center.

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