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Starbucks Canada jumps on the beer, wine and tapas train

Starbucks is once again out to prove it is far more cultured and urbane than Tim Hortons and Second Cup.

In the endless coffee war, the Seattle-headquartered chain announced plans to add an evening menu of wine and beer with flatbread, olives and cheese to locations in Toronto and other big Canadian cities by the end of 2015.

“They have the loyalty of the customers in the morning and maybe in the afternoon but they’re trying to increase the loyalty to other part of the day and that requires different products,” James Rilett, Restaurants Canada’s Vice President of Ontario, tells Yahoo Canada Finance. “I think that’s what you’re seeing in the entire industry.”

In a sense, the tapas offering is the brand’s oh-so-sophisticated response to Tim Hortons concept store which hawked pints of coffee-flavoured beer and crepes and Second Cups’s unveiling of its take on the “café of the future” with a slow bar and a chemistry lab worth of indie coffeeshop-inspired brewing techniques.

“I think that industry is very competitive and all about loyalty and (trying to) lure customers from one to the other,” says Rilett. “The cafes in Europe have always had coffee and alcohol – you’re seeing that now here, the lines are being blurred.”

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Starbucks Canada president Rossann Williams said one of the major catalysts behind the fresh menu is to entice women – which make up 60 per cent of the brands clientele. It’ll give them a place to go and talk about how “over” the bar scene they are.

“If two young friends want to get together and not hit the bar scene but want somewhere they can talk then this is something people are looking for,” adds Rilett. “Starbucks is just trying to get into that market.”

The brand will also add express walk-up stores and drive-thrus made out of old shipping containers to the mix.

But coffee shops aren’t the only ones dipping their toes in the burgeoning fast casual movement. KFC added beer and healthier options to two KFC Fresh concept stores in Toronto and McDonalds has spent the past few years carving out a niche in the market with its McCafe.

The fast casual ethos is growing with consumers looking for quality food and interesting local offerings.

Six in 10 consumers consider themselves more food adventurous now than two years ago and around one-quarter of consumers say technology options are important features that factor into their decision to choose a restaurant, according to a report by the National Restaurant Association’s 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast.