Artisanal smoked trout salad with your Starbucks coffee?

  • @louisa_saunders

The lure of Starbucks is almost alchemistic. However much anyone tells you it's an evil conglomerate peddling so-so beverages on a mass scale, you somehow can't shake a smug little feeling of rightness as you settle into its "third-space" shops and nod along to the strategically selected soundtrack.

This is no accident. In an age when corporate is a bad look, the chain has bent over backwards to fashion an accidental mom-and-pop charm, from converting branches into logo-free corner coffee shops (like 15th Ave. Coffee and Tea in the firm's hometown, Seattle) of the sort that are closing in droves as chains like this expand, to marking your name on your drink when you order.

It's so effective that millions of people have failed to notice that the food that makes up a third of Starbucks' transactions is, in fact, terrible. No longer! The latest step in the charm offensive is the acquisition for $100m of the Bay Bread group, whose brands like La Boulange make wholesome bakery goods from local ingredients that may soon be rolling out into Starbucks' US branches. Margins, however, will be not a jot higher, so whether this is the kiss of life for Starbucks food or the kiss of death for the bakery remains to be seen.