In an effort to overcome their reputation as a mediocre coffee chain with overly syruped seasonal beverages, Starbucks announced Monday that they are purchasing La Boulange for $100 million. The generally well-regarded San Francisco-based chain is getting gobbled up as the coffee behemoth looks to expand their perpetually disappointing food options with something that people might actually like to eat.
While Starbucks has being playing around with limp pastries, $5 yogurt parfaits and microwaved breakfast sandwiches for a while now, the purchase of the (ahem) "artisan" bakery chain seems like an admission that the company's legion of baristas couldn't be bothered to work an oven. No word yet on how Starbucks plans to keep up with with the made-from-scratch ethos of La Boulange's founding Frenchman/baker Pascal Rigo, who will be joining Starbucks corporate as part of the deal, but according to USA Today the company is already planning to upgrade their existing facilities and distribution capacity. Which is corporate speak for "we need to figure out how to get it from the bakery to the store."
There's also no indication yet of what will happen to La Boulange's 19 Bay Area locations, specifically whether they'll remain independently branded or become members of the Starbucks family. Inside Scoop reports the chain will be expanding from 19 locations to somewhere in the ballpark of 200 to 400 locations in the next four or five years. So be prepared for brains to explode as the city's locally sourced coffee snobs and formula retail-hating city supervisors try to wrap their heads around that one.
Anyhow, Starbucks die-hards and people with a balance remaining on their gift cards can expect to start seeing croissants, macarons and other French goodies showing up at West Coast Starbucks locations early in 2013. The original La Boulange location at Pine and Fillmore, meanwhile, will probably start getting the same hushed reverence as Starbucks' Pike Place Store shortly thereafter.