Starbucks to open first local drive-thru café
One of 15 new outlets expected by end of 2023Friday, January 07, 2022
BY HORACE MILLS
DRAX HALL, St Ann — Starbucks is on track to open its first drive-through location in Jamaica later this month, its 12th outlet in the country and the second in St Ann.
It will be located at Drax Hall, on the outskirts of the resort town of Ocho Rios where another outlet is located at Island Village.
“We are in the midst of going through the preparation [for the launch]. KFC has just opened [on the same premises] and we will be open by the end of the month for sure,” Joey Epstein, managing director of Starbucks Caribbean, told the Jamaica Observer.
“We will likely open with about 12 [employees] but ultimately, based on the volume of the store, we are probably going to need about 18 team members,” he added.
Epstein said the multinational chain of coffee houses and roastery reserves has about 100 people in its employ in Jamaica, adding that further recruitment is in the offing as the company opens more outlets across the country.
“We are looking to get to 15 [cafés] in Jamaica by the end of 2023,” he added. “Half-Way-Tree is the only [upcoming location] I can disclose currently because we don't have agreements in place [for the others]. We have letters of intent for two others which will get us to 14 and I am sure we will find the 15th within this year.”
A number of factors go into picking locations, noted Epstein, who expanded on his point by using the soon-to-be-opened Drax Hall café as an example.
“Drax Hall for us is a great in-between for those transients from Kingston to Montego Bay and Runaway Bay and that area. We've actually recovered some studies that there is an average of over 30,000 vehicles that pass that location every day... It's a tremendous thoroughfare and we've decided that, with KFC going there as well, that should be a massive pull overall to the area,” he said.
The new Starbucks outlet promises to offer much more than a convenient location.
“Persons can expect to get the same great quality that they are getting across the rest of the island,” Epstein said. “I think there is going to be impeccable service [and a] warm Starbucks welcome as they walk through the door. And I think a big note is that this is going to be our first drive-through, so we intend to give Jamaica better and faster service. Our product can be a quick grab and go, but it can also be a café-type seating...”
He also noted that there has been a shift in local attitude towards the brand since it waded into the Jamaican market in 2017 with a café at Doctor's Cave Beach in Montego Bay.
“I think Jamaica is catching up with the times as it relates to the understanding of the foreign brand. There was concern initially as we entered the market, and the shareholders looked to say, 'It is a US brand; let's focus on tourism'. I think what we recognised when we opened our first Kingston store in 2018, which was Liguanea, is that the demand for the brand and the product itself was massive,” Epstein asserted.
“First and foremost, this is local investment, so it's local partners (the way they refer to employees) and local shareholders. From management all the way down, it is Jamaican through and through. That being said, we've grown our partners, which is what we call our staff... Yes, it is a foreign brand, but we've Jamaicanised it; we've made it a Caribbean company,” he explained.
Epstein added that, based on his Starbucks experience, he would encourage more multinationals to do business in Jamaica.
“I would encourage outsiders and foreign brands to continue to support Jamaica because it is certainly welcomed locally,” he said.
Starbucks stores in Jamaica are operated by Caribbean Coffee Baristas Limited, which is a joint venture between CEO of Margaritaville Caribbean Group Ian Dear and executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International Adam Stewart, who is also executive chairman of the Jamaica Observer.