It’s not just about the coffee. Consumers are now visiting Starbucks’ corporate headquarters to eat at its restaurant, Sodo Kitchen.

Earlier this month Bon Appétit, which manages the venue, announced to the public that breakfast and lunch were served and since then, they’ve been eating alongside Starbucks’ employees.

This is unusual for corporate cafés, which are typically open only to employees and often subsidized.

Sodo Kitchen is neither.

By doubling up the potential customer base, the 12,000-square-foot Sodo now attracts between 750 and almost 1,000 customers per day, about 10 percent of who come from outside the coffee company.

It’s early days yet but Bon Appétit does hope to draw more outside people in and is seeing those numbers grow.

It’s active on Facebook and Twitter,announcing the weekly menu and posting photographs of those menu items. It alsodistributes coupons to local businesses, such as $5 off an entrée—a substantial savings on entrees that average $8. The average check is between $8.13 and $8.30.

The key to Sodo’s success, says general manager Rick Stromire, is that it offers mostly healthy food, but enough less healthy options to keep everyone happy.

“It is always best to intermix both healthy and comfort menus to accommodate the tastes [and] lifestyles of all guests, giving the customer the opportunity to choose for themselves the menu item they wish to enjoy, yet knowing that they have the opportunity to choose either way. Our responsibility is to encourage moderation and offer appropriate portions sizes."

Sodo—named for the South of Downtown neighborhood in which it is located—is a display style restaurant with a series of stations. Most foods change weekly but there are some staples like rotisserie chicken, tandoor chicken and margarita pizza.

The restaurant has a number of stations including rotisserie (where meats are also roasted for the deli) which offers meats, fish and comfort foods like mac n’ cheese; soups; the grill, which offers many unusual burgers such as a Cuban burger and a lamb burger with fried onions and mint jam; a deli which offers ‘bacos’— signature open faced sandwiches—a mix of sandwich and taco, says Stromire.

Following Bon Appétit principles, Sodo Kitchen offers only sustainable seafood and follows the Monterey Bay Aquarium guide, local meats, and produce. These principles are also generally important to Seattleites.

Sodo Kitchen is open for breakfast and lunch and closes at 3 p.m. but Stromire says he’s trying to build the catering revenue. It’s now just 10 percent of business, but Bon Appétit is marketing it to local businesses, just to get the word out.

All catering is done on-premise in the traditional (wooden butcher style tables)-yet-modern (lots of metal) restaurant.

By Amanda Baltazar

Industry News, NextGen Casual