Starbucks Truck via Bloomberg Businessweek
It’s February 1st. You exit your dorm room and are greeted by snowfall and subfreezing temperatures. The walk to your 8:00am class could not be more dreadful at this point. How does a piping hot, extra large (excuse me, Venti) coffee with a shot of espresso sound? Something to warm up your walk and help you not drool on your notes 15 minutes into the boring lecture you and 300 other half asleep 20 year olds are barely hanging onto sounds pretty good I’d imagine. It surely would have for me five years ago walking from west of campus to the northeast corner at Penn State. Starbucks is betting on it, too.
The Bucks is about to roll out (no pun intended) food trucks on three college campuses across the country to test the waters with hopes of expanding to other schools in the near future. While I don’t particularly understand the logic behind the three colleges they chose (Arizona State University, James Madison University, and Coastal Carolina), it will be interesting to see how everything unfolds. Arizona State has partnered with Starbucks to offer scholarships to employees for ASU’s online program. Other than that, I personally couldn’t fathom wanting to grab a coffee outside in the late August and September heat of the desert. I’ll assume iced coffees will be a popular choice in Tempe. JMU will offer the widest variety of traditional seasons which should be a better gauge of what can be expected for any campuses located in the top half of the country year round.
With that being said, I believe the food trucks will see success as they start their operations for these three reasons.
- Untapped markets – College campuses are an area where Starbucks has a shockingly small presence compared to their “every other corner” locations in major cities. There’s roughly 300 Starbucks located on 4,700 college campuses across the country. That is a lot of market share that Starbucks can encroach on in a short period of time. In addition to this, according to Aramark (the company operating the trucks), Starbucks is the preferred brand of coffee amongst college students from a recently conducted survey.
- Convenience – Students looking to grab a coffee outside their dorm room or on the quad rather than heading to the commons or a specific building on campus are the market Starbucks is looking to steal.
- Affordability – But wait, isn’t Starbucks notoriously expensive? Yes it is, but while the “broke college student” may not be able to afford Starbucks everyday, their parents probably can. Assuming the partnership between Starbucks and Aramark allows students to use their meal plans or student discounts towards menu items, I don’t see how this fails.
Only time will tell how this plays out for Starbucks. I expect to see more campuses with coffee toting trucks on them in the near future. Food trucks are all the rage right now, and their accessibility is a major reason behind that. Remember, Starbucks doesn’t need every student to gravitate to their new trucks, but they have an opportunity to tap into a market in which they are currently sitting on the outside.