Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Report  shares could use a shot of caffeine.

With year-to-date gains of less than 1%, as well as a 12-month loss of nearly 5%, the Seattle-based coffee giant's stock has lagged the broader market's rally. Although Starbucks has been a disappointment for investors during the last 12 months, that's no reason to give up on this stock if you are a long-term investor. 

On Wednesday, the company hosted its annual shareholders meeting, and this year's event was particularly memorable since it marked the last with Howard Schultz as CEO. Schultz helped Starbucks become what it is today - a household name, with stores on nearly every street corner around the world.

Looking at the company's expansion plans, however, it's clear Schultz & Co. have no plans to take their foot off the gas. 

By 2021, the company plans to open 12,000 new stores across the globe, creating nearly 240,000 jobs. About 3,400 of these stores will be in the U.S., where the company plans to add 68,000 jobs.

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But some of Starbucks' most lucrative growth prospects aren't in the U.S., but in China, where a growing middle class has developed a taste for frappuccinos and gourmet tea beverages from the company's Teavana line. Indeed, Starbucks expects the China market to eventually overtake that in the U.S. in terms of size.

"Not only will China one day be bigger than the U.S., but our business in China will demonstrate that we will be one of the most significant winners in terms of a Western consumer brand," Schultz said on a conference call back in December. Currently, on average, a new Starbucks store opens in China roughly every 15 hours.

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But, the company also has other plans for the long-term.

Starbucks will launch a lunch menu - including vegan options - in select markets this spring. And after officially stepping down in April, Schultz will spearhead efforts to build out the company's new higher-end Roastery and Reserve concepts. Schultz will be succeeded by Kevin Johnson as CEO on April 3.

Plus, Starbucks intends to continue expanding its technical capabilities. Users can already order their coffee through their Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report Alexa personal assistants. But through a new partnership with Ford Motor (F) - Get Report , customers will be able to access Starbucks' mobile ordering through their cars' computer systems.

In light of all this potential, Starbucks remains a great long-term stock for investors who want to play a relatively "sure bet" in the restaurant industry. A restaurant recession has weighed on the sector's stocks lately, including Starbucks, as well as McDonald's (MCD) - Get Report and other old favorites. So don't expect any surges in the short-term. However, Starbucks long-term growth plans should net investors a strong brew of profits.


John Persinos is an analyst at Investing Daily. At the time of publication, he owned none of the stocks mentioned.

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John Persinos is an analyst at Investing Daily. At the time of publication, he owned none of the stocks mentioned.