Photographer: Leslie Patton/Bloomberg

Starbucks Adds Snap Kitchen Meals in Latest Bid to Master Food

  • Coffee giant has been trying to generate growth from cuisine
  • Snap Kitchen test started in Houston and will expand elsewhere

Starbucks Corp. has begun selling meals from industry upstart Snap Kitchen at cafes in Houston, marking the coffee giant’s latest attempt to sell more food alongside its lattes.

While just five Starbucks cafes are offering the items now, the company is looking to expand the test to another market soon. New Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson mentioned the trial in a memo sent to Starbucks employees on Monday.

“The test of Snap Kitchens -- a company we admire -- is off to an amazing start in Houston and will soon expand,” Johnson said in the letter, which was confirmed by Starbucks. “I’m also impressed with the progress we are making to elevate food at Starbucks.”

The coffee purveyor has been making a push to sell more food for years, with meals and snacks now accounting for about 20 percent of U.S. sales. But the effort has been marked by stumbles, including menu misfires and complaints that food was too pricey or the portions were too small.

Starbucks is facing more competition from chains such as McDonald’s Corp., which introduced all-day breakfast, and Taco Bell, whose breakfast lineup includes sausage burritos, hash browns and bacon crunchwraps. New lunch spots with customizable salads and sandwiches also are popping up.

Texas-based Snap Kitchen, led by former Weight Watchers CEO David Kirchhoff, was founded about seven years ago. The chain specializes in grab-and-go meals that cater to people looking for healthy ingredients. It has 53 locations across the U.S.

Seared Steak & Mango Salad

Source: Starbucks

Starbucks recently has experimented with selling some higher-end food, including sous vide egg bites and gluten-free breakfast sandwiches. It’s also testing a new line of lunch items at about 100 locations in Chicago. That program, dubbed Mercato, includes steak and mango salads, almond-butter sandwiches and cauliflower tabbouleh.

“The rollout of Mercato in Chicago with its record sales performance is an exceptionally exciting step forward,” Johnson said in the letter.

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