Starbucks Competitors and Alternatives

Starbucks Overview

Today, Starbucks has over 35,000 stores across the world spanning from Shanghai to São Paulo – and almost every city in between.

The key ingredients driving Starbucks’ success? For starters, revenues have climbed to nearly $35 billion annually on the back of massive retail expansion and loyal customers. In 2022 alone, Starbucks opened 2,000 net new stores, one step closer to their goal of 55,000 total stores worldwide.

Starbucks SWOT, Business Model and Growth Analysis

Who are Starbucks’ top competitors? The biggest national chains taking them on are Dunkin’ Donuts, Costa Coffee and Tim Hortons with their cheaper coffee and breakfast fare, and newcomer Dutch Bros with their faster drive-thrus. Local indie cafes also compete, touting their unique atmosphere and specialty drinks. And let’s not forget McDonald’s jumping into specialty coffee too.

Let’s take a look at major Starbucks competitors and alternatives –

Starbucks Competitors - Coffee Shop Shares

McDonalds McCafe

McDonald’s entered the coffeehouse space with McCafé – a concept that pairs specialty coffee drinks with its customary fast, convenient and affordable dining experience. With over 40,000 locations globally, McDonald’s is attempting to steal coffee drinkers from Starbucks by undercutting prices and leveraging its pre-existing stores and customer traffic. While the exact number of McCafes is not known, several McDonald’s have McCafes within them. The exclusive number of McCafes is not official but they could be well over 4,000 globally by now.

McCafe is anticipated to experience swift expansion in both India and China. For Instance, McCafé aims to invest 2.5 billion yuan for its Mainland China expansion, targeting over 4,000 shops by 2023. Moreover in December 2023 McDonald’s announced that they are testing a new indulgence-focused café concept, CosMc’s, in Illinois. Although it will operate separately from the existing McCafé menu range.

Though still outpaced in quality perception by Starbucks, McDonald’s pours billions into marketing McCafé as an accessible indulgence with menu items similar to Starbucks favorites. McDonald’s also had baked goods like bagels, muffins and pastries to acquire morning customers in competition with Starbucks bakery items.

However, McDonald’s in-store atmosphere and packaging lack Starbucks’ premium ambience tailored towards remote work. Ultimately, the Golden Arches seems better matched to compete with chains like Dunkin’ and Tim Hortons more than the market dominant Starbucks. Still, with its vast customer reach, newly renovated locations and lower price points, McDonald’s McCafé poses a threat to steal some Starbucks loyalists and new coffee drinkers – especially in international emerging markets where Starbucks stores have yet to saturate.

Costa Coffee

Owned by The Coca Cola company, Costa Coffee has over 3,800 locations primarily concentrated in the UK as the second largest coffeehouse chain after Starbucks. Costa competes by tailoring both its menu offerings and shop formats to match the expectations of local tastes and real estate constraints. They’re also leveraging technology to bring advancements in the coffee world. For Instance, In October 2023, Costa X and Caffitaly have collaborated to launch the Podio range, a revolutionary coffee pod machine series designed for businesses, offering barista-quality coffee with the convenience of a pod system.

Costa Coffee poses direct competition to Starbucks in the UK market where its local roots and familiar flavors like flat whites resonate well. Outside the UK, Costa focuses on winning through affordable pricing packages and combo deals. However, Starbucks still leads in perceived premium quality products and store aesthetics globally. Costa Coffee seems to have planted itself as “the strong #2” behind Starbucks, able to win local customer bases through smart customization and value pricing.

Its partnerships with popular retail outlets have also made Costa Coffee widely accessible and convenient without major real estate investments in standalone cafes. Costa Coffee is also expanding its vegan offerings with a festive Christmas menu for 2023, featuring new options like the Vegan Turkey & Trimmings Toastie and seasonal drinks such as the Roasted Hazel Latte and Gingerbread and Cream Latte.

Starbucks Competitors - Coffee Shop Stores


As a competitor, Dunkin’ offers a more affordable coffee-focused menu contrasting Starbucks’ premium beverages. They has over 12,500 locations, in 42 countries, with more than 9,500 locations in the United States as of 2023. Dunkin’ competes largely on convenience and value rather than luxurious in-store experiences. Their target customer seeks a quick, no-frills coffee and donut stop.

Recently, Dunkin’ has focused efforts on expanding their beverage selection to include specialty coffee drinks to appeal to more premium tastes. Dunkin’ has collaborated with The Coca-Cola Company to launch a new selection of ready-to-drink canned iced coffees, the Dunkin’ Iced Coffee Bakery Series. Moreover, Dunkin’ has also introduced a new Salted Caramel Creamer, catering to the demand for sweet and salty flavors in coffee. This addition expands Dunkin’s at-home coffee creamers lineup, providing consumers with a restaurant-inspired option for their morning brew.

Their core strengths still seem to be speed, affordability and widespread locations. With its bright quick-service shop model, Dunkin’ stakes its success on catering to the everyday American consumer looking for a good cup of joe on the go.

Tim Hortons

The Canadian coffee and donut chain Tim Hortons is focused heavily on quick, affordable offerings, in contrast to Starbucks’ positioning around the in-store café experience. With no European-style coffee drinks or elaborate Frappuccinos, Tim Hortons lures in customers seeking a fast, straightforward cup of coffee and a donut or breakfast sandwich.

Tim Hortons is now set on expanding into East Asian and Middle East markets, having already opened over 300 stores in the ME and India, with plans to further expand in India. The company has announced plans to open 1,500 new stores across Asia within the next 10 years, focusing on offering menu items catering to local preferences like matcha and congee.

However, Tim Hortons has a far smaller global presence compared to Starbucks and its menu probably does not resonate as strongly with more sophisticated coffee drinkers. It competes broadly on price and speed rather than premium quality. Tim Hortons could potentially offer Starbucks competition in some North American markets, but likely does not threaten Starbucks’ dominance given its simpler value menu.

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Caribou Coffee

Caribou Coffee out of Minnesota could be viewed as a direct Starbucks competitor in the premium coffeehouse space. It focuses explicitly on the in-café experience rather than just beverages to-go. With high-quality drinks, food options, free WiFi, and comfortable seating areas, Caribou Coffee follows the Starbucks playbook fairly closely.

Its smaller store footprint of around 300 locations limits its current challenge to Starbucks, but it offers a very similar premium café concept focused on the full experience. Caribou Coffee has the product and positioning to compete direct with Starbucks, albeit at a smaller scale so far. As it continues expanding nationwide, Caribou may increasingly go toe-to-toe with Starbucks for café guests in many US markets seeking upscale offerings in a relaxed café environment.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

This Los Angeles based chain has over 1000 locations spanning the US and abroad, often competing in close proximity to Starbucks stores. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (CBTL) features premium espresso drinks, tea-based beverages, and food options for dining in or taking out – hitting many of the same notes as the Starbucks model.

Its branding has more of a retro vibe compared to Starbucks’ sleek modern feel, but when it comes to the menu, CBTL mirrors Starbucks with similar espresso drinks, tea lattes, cold brew and nitrogen infused coffee, etc. By cultivating premium products and a café ambiance like Starbucks, CBTL directly competes for discerning coffee drinkers who want quality drinks in a relaxed space. Its smaller scale and quirkier branding set it apart while still encroaching in a similar café niche.

Café Coffee Day

Café Coffee Day (CCD) could be seen as a prime competitor to Starbucks in certain markets. Based in India, CCD has over 1,700 stores across the country and is the dominant coffee chain. With its focus on affordability and uniquely Indian style beverages, CCD appeals to a wide local consumer base seeking an inexpensive café experience. However, CCD lacks the global footprint and brand cachet of Starbucks.

While popular in India, it would likely struggle to expand abroad due to its positioning as a value brand rather than premium player. Still, within India and perhaps other developing markets, CCD offers strong competition thanks to its localized menus and lower prices.


With over 2,000 bakery-cafes in the United States and Canada, Panera has become a major player in the coffee and cafe scene. While not a pureplay coffee shop like Starbucks, Panera offers high quality coffee and espresso drinks using 100% Arabica beans as part of its extensive cafe menu.

Panera aims to compete by promoting its fresh bakery items and casual cafe ambience as an inviting third place for people to meet, work, or relax outside of the home or office. Its free WiFi and comfortable seating areas target a similar customer profile as Starbucks. Going forward, Panera’s continued growth and its appeal to coffee drinkers looking for a more food-focused cafe experience could pose a threat to Starbucks’ dominance.

starbucks competitors
Photo by Marta Dzedyshko from Pexels

Krispy Kreme

The famous doughnut chain has been around since 1937 but only more recently began expanding its coffee offerings to better compete with coffeehouse brands. Besides high quality and affordable coffee and espresso drinks made from 100% Arabica beans, Krispy Kreme locations in the U.S. allow customers to watch doughnuts being made fresh daily on a glazed conveyor belt. In September 2023, Krispy Kreme launched an all-new improved coffee line with richer roasts, better beans, and more options to customize, including oat milk

This theater of experience combined with Krispy Kreme’s brand recognition among pastry and sweets lovers gives the chain a differentiated edge. As it opens more franchise locations with drive-thrus and coffee-focused menus, Krispy Kreme has the potential to win business from regular Starbucks customers.


Founded in Turin, Italy in 1895, Lavazza is one of Europe’s oldest coffee producers and now distributes products in over 140 countries worldwide. While less known among mainstream U.S. consumers, Lavazza operates over 600 coffee bars and restaurants internationally. Its recent acquisition of Mars Inc’s Carte Noire and ESP brands also expands its retail coffee presence.

As a globally respected coffee brand, Lavazza may appeal to more discerning coffee aficionados who view Starbucks as too commercialized or lacking coffee pedigree. Positioning itself as an authentic Italian coffee experience gives Lavazza a unique point of differentiation from Starbucks.

Maxwell House

Maxwell House is one of the leading mainstream coffee brands in the U.S. They offer a wide variety of roasted coffee products for preparing brewed coffee at home. As a veteran player in the coffee industry with mass market distribution, they compete with Starbucks for grocery store sales.

While not a specialty coffee purveyor like Starbucks, Maxwell House offers consistent, modestly-priced coffee options to cost-conscious consumers. Their ubiquity and affordability makes them a go-to coffee brand for many households. However, they lack the premium ambiance and beverage customization that draws certain demographics to Starbucks outlets.


Similarly, Folgers is another entrenched player competing with Starbucks as a leading home-brewed coffee brand. As a subsidiary of J.M. Smucker Company, Folgers leverages its parent company’s distribution network to maintain dominant shelf space across retailers.

Like Maxwell House, Folgers positions itself a dependable, no-frills coffee choice focusing more on value than intricate flavors. While not striving for artisanal quality, Folgers still invests in improving its blends to keep pace with shifting consumer preferences. Ultimately though, Starbucks eclipses Folgers for those desiring more gourmet, crafted beverages from ethical bean sourcing.

Dutch Bros

Unlike the previous two brands, Dutch Bros directly competes with Starbucks in the café space as a rapidly expanding chain. They have carved out a niche for drive-thru focused coffee shops drawing inspiration from Starbucks to make the process fast and convenient. Their strategy targets commuters and students craving customizable cold coffee drinks and energy boosts.

While they don’t exactly match Starbucks’ ambiance and breadth of offerings, Dutch Bros excels at speed of service. And through savvy branding and loyal customer followings in western states, they continue to gain ground and eat into Starbucks’ market share. Their growth trajectory and appeal with younger demographics makes Dutch Bros a competitive force to be reckoned with.

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Seattle’s Best Coffee

As a subsidiary value-focused chain under the Starbucks corporation, Seattle’s Best Coffee also offers direct completion to its parent company. Seattle’s Best Coffee manages to pull some customers away from Starbucks with lower prices while carrying some core Starbucks offerings. Their cost advantage stems from having less elaborate store designs and more streamlined menus.

However, most still perceive Starbucks as the stronger brand name with superior quality. Seattle’s Best Coffee tends to situate its cafes near college campuses and office spaces appealing to price-sensitive students and professionals. While never intending to overtake Starbucks with market share, Seattle’s Best Coffee does modestly erode some business in select areas.

Independent Coffeehouses

Local independent cafes focus intensely on high quality fresh roasts, unique brewing techniques, and fostering community among their regulars. Often located in hip, upscale neighborhoods, these coffee bars attract residents and visitors who prefer supporting local businesses or want a more quirky, artistic vibe.

Independent coffee houses thrive by leveraging their specialized expertise and by cultivating customer loyalty within their neighborhood community. While not a direct head-to-head competitor to Starbucks’ scale and brand familiarity, bespoke independent cafes could be viewed as taking niche business among discerning coffee lovers away from Starbucks stores in the same vicinity.

Prepackaged/Bottled Coffees and Teas

Starbucks faces competition from a variety of sources in the coffee, tea, and beverage industry. Prepackaged and bottled coffee and tea brands like Nestlé’s Nescafé and Lipton are convenient, widely available alternatives found in grocery stores and mass retailers.

These affordable and accessible options appeal to coffee drinkers looking for a quick cup on-the-go without visiting a café. Major soft drink companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi also compete with their wide range of caffeinated sodas, sports drinks, and energy drink lines. These beverages attract consumers seeking an afternoon pick-me-up or hydration during activities.

Soft drink & Energy Drinks

Additionally, Starbucks competes with regional and national café chains like Peet’s, Caribou, Dunkin’ Donuts, and local independent coffee houses. These cafés offer similar in-store experiences and products like espresso drinks, teas, pastries and compete in some of the same metropolitan markets.

They differentiate themselves based on factors like menu variety, pricing, store atmosphere, customer loyalty programs, and localization to stand out from the Starbucks brand. Independent cafés in particular can leverage their unique neighborhood identities and specialty offerings to attract coffee connoisseurs interested in supporting local businesses.


When assessing the landscape of Starbucks competitors and alternatives, it’s clear Starbucks needs to lean into its strengths in the premium coffee experience to avoid losing market share. Trends toward convenience, sustainability, and affordability are right in the sweet spot of competitors like Dunkin’ and McDonald’s. Starbucks can capitalize on convenience by accelerating innovations in mobile ordering, delivery, and drive-thrus while bringing more sustainable packaging and supply chain initiatives to the forefront.

Tiered pricing can help retain budget-conscious consumers, and special lower-priced seasonal offerings create value. Starbucks would also do well to explore smaller-format express stores in urban areas for faster service. And focusing internationally on markets that favor the in-store Starbucks Experience versus just cheap coffee will be key.

By centering growth strategies around enhancing digital convenience, messaging values like sustainability, adjusting price-points, expanding express retail, and customizing globally, Starbucks can uphold its positioning even in the face of mounting Starbucks competitors and alternatives. The Starbucks Experience still resonates widely, and smart strategic moves can help them continue to thrive.

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