What Starbucks Foot Traffic Tells Us About Current Coffee Consumer Trends

July 25, 2023

Although consumer foot traffic trends have been shifting recently, certain brand affinities are strong enough to withstand these changes. One of those beloved brands is Starbucks, boasting sales and a store network that make it the largest specialty coffee chain in the world. This doesn’t mean, however, that Starbucks’ company growth has hit its peak. Starbucks has a robust growth and reinvention initiative in place and has recently introduced a new CEO to lead the company to new heights. So, as Starbucks seeks to maintain its competitive edge, what does foot traffic to Starbucks locations look like today? Furthermore, what can Starbucks foot traffic tell us about current coffee consumer trends?

Young woman enjoys a cup of coffee

To learn more, we examined foot traffic data to Starbucks locations along with its key competitors Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, and Peet’s Coffee.

Foot Traffic to Starbucks in Q2 2023

When we previously analyzed foot traffic to Starbucks locations in Q4 2022, Starbucks’ year-over-year foot traffic levels trailed behind Dunkin’ Donuts, one of its major rival chains. Furthermore, nearing the end of Q1 2023, Dunkin’ Donuts continued to gain and maintain more year-over-year foot traffic than its competitors, including Starbucks. After examining the data for Q2 2023, the trend continues.

For the time period we analyzed, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s both experienced the largest increases in year-over-year foot traffic, with both brands seeing a significant 32% rise by the end of Q2 2023. Starbucks experienced a fairly notable increase of 22%, while Peet’s Coffee experienced a decline of 8%. All of the brands we analyzed followed a similar pattern, with foot traffic trending upward through Q1 2023 before declining slightly in Q2 2023. While this may be due to shared factors impacting consumer foot traffic, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s saw the most consistent upward trends.

Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s rapidly gained foot traffic in Q3 2022 which continued to grow until Q1 of this year. So, does this mean that Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonald’s are conquesting Starbucks customers this year?

Starbucks still takes the cake for being the largest global coffee company, but here’s why we think other coffee-serving chains are attracting more in-person visitors.

Starbucks Customer Trends

Starbucks has one of the most-subscribed loyalty programs in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) industry, and it continues to evolve and grow. This is important because, not only does the loyalty program drive sales and foot traffic to Starbucks locations, but it also plays an integral role in influencing Starbucks customer trends and interest. With the largest network of stores in the specialty coffee space, Starbucks stands out as the most accessible and preferred choice among coffee lovers. Undoubtedly, its loyalty program serves as a significant advantage that keeps millions of customers returning to its stores. So, why are Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s seeing more foot traffic?

McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts have popular loyalty programs of their own, which likely attract a steady amount of returning customers as loyalty programs gain traction this year. Plus, Starbucks customers may be receiving their orders via delivery more commonly as Starbucks and Doordash have emphasized and strengthened their partnership this year. As a result, an increasing number of customers may no longer visit physical Starbucks store locations to satisfy their coffee cravings. This shift in behavior could be a contributing factor affecting foot traffic to Starbucks locations.

Specialty Coffee Consumer Trends in 2023

With recent foot traffic data showing increased consumer visits to Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s, this could suggest a potential emerging trend among coffee customers: a growing preference for coffee shops that provide a wider variety of food options alongside their coffee offerings. Both Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s offer a wide variety of food items, while Starbucks’ food menu is much more limited. 

Another significant factor that may contribute to the increased foot traffic at Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s is the prevailing high inflation and economic uncertainty observed in recent times. This situation could be prompting consumers to opt for more affordable coffee options available at Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s, in contrast to the generally higher-priced coffee offerings at Starbucks.

While Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s may be seeing greater increases in in-person customer visits this year, Starbucks’ plans for growth and new, immersive experiences may begin to attract more in-person visitors. Plus, it’s worth noting that although Starbucks didn’t take the lead for foot traffic, it still experienced significant year-over-year growth. It will be interesting to see how Starbucks competes with Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s for foot traffic later in the year.

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