Starbucks eyes soda and lunch as US sales climb

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 24, 2014 at 6:12 pm •  Published: April 24, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks keeps finding ways to squeeze more money out of people.

The Seattle-based chain reported a stronger quarterly profit Thursday as global sales at established locations rose 6 percent, including in its flagship U.S. market. Operating margin improved as a result of lower costs for ingredients, and the company raised its profit outlook for the year.

Starbucks Corp. has continued to report healthy sales gains, even as others in the fast-food sectore have struggled. Its strategies have included price hikes, getting people to sign up for its loyalty program and the rollout of an array of new items, including breakfast sandwiches, salads and bottled juices. Later this year, it plans to introduce its made-to-order Fizzio soda offerings at 3,000 U.S. locations.

After seeing through the rollout of its new La Boulange baked goods this year, Chief Operating Office Troy Alstead said in a phone interview that Starbucks will move on to refining its lunch options, with some items already being tested. That would help convince customers to spend even more when they visit, or go to Starbucks during hours they normally wouldn't.

The company noted that Starbucks delivered stronger sales in the quarter despite severe weather, which has been cited by companies including Dunkin' Brands and McDonald's Corp. for weak sales. Alstead downplayed a recent hiccup in its rollout of La Boulange baked goods, when the company brought back pumpkin and lemon loaves after customers complained.

"Oh, tweaks are always happening," Alstead explained.

In a conference call with analysts and investors, CEO Howard Schultz also noted that there's plenty of runway for the company to open more stores, even in the U.S. where it has more than 11,000 cafes.