STARBUCKS ADDS LUNCH AT 12 LOS ANGELES UNITS

LOS ANGELES -- Starbucks has introduced its lunch menu in 12 of its stores here, marking the latest phase of its expansion beyond the specialty-coffee, beverage and pastry niche. Los Angeles joins the six other major markets across the United States and Canada already partaking in the sales of prepared sandwiches, salads and soups. The menu extension is being sold alongside the Seattle-based chain's

LOS ANGELES -- Starbucks has introduced its lunch menu in 12 of its stores here, marking the latest phase of its expansion beyond the specialty-coffee, beverage and pastry niche. Los Angeles joins the six other major markets across the United States and Canada already partaking in the sales of prepared sandwiches, salads and soups. The menu extension is being sold alongside the Seattle-based chain's already famous coffees and assorted specialty beverages.

With the addition of the Los Angeles branches, Starbucks now offers lunch in more than 70 of its stores nationwide, including locations in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, as well as in Toronto. According to spokesman Chris Gimbl, a national rollout of the lunch offerings is on the horizon, but with no definite date thus far.

In what some may see as a threat to supermarket delis, sales of the new lunch products have been particularly strong during morning business hours, according to Gimbl, who noted that customers are using their morning coffee visits as an occasion to buy their lunches as well. It's a development that has helped instill confidence in the sandwich program among company officials and propel the expansion to new markets.

With a variety of sandwiches and salads priced between $3.75 and $5.95, Gimbl said, the lunch menu will not be printed alongside the coffee and beverage menus, which are posted on boards across the store wall. Instead, glass display cases in each unit will allow customers to view the prepared foods, along with their price tags and ingredients, before a purchase. The new Los Angeles lunch menus offer sandwiches such as Red Pepper Tuna, Roast Turkey Pesto, Rare Roast Beef Parmesan and Chipotle Chicken as well as Mediterranean and Asian Chicken salads, and a daily choice of soups.

All the lunch items in the New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles branches are prepared on-site according to Starbucks recipes. At the four other locations, third-party vendors deliver the foods premade, having followed the Starbucks preparation specifications. Gimbl confirmed that Starbucks is studying both the in-store and third-party production methods in these seven markets to determine which is more efficient and profitable -- come time for the lunch menu's national rollout.

The announcement came days before Starbucks announced that it had signed a licensing agreement to open more than 100 Starbucks coffee bars in Boise, Idaho-based Albertson's stores throughout the United States. According to officials, the first unit opened in an Albertson's near its headquarters Nov. 3. The coffee bar sells prepared beverages, teas, pastries, ice cream, premeasured coffees and selected Starbucks merchandise.