Starbucks, setting up shop in Italy for the first time, will open a roastery location in Milan next year, turning to its upscale brand to gain a foothold in the country that birthed espresso.
The 25,500 sq ft retail space will open in a historic post office in the city’s centre in late 2018, about a year later than Starbucks had planned to enter the Italian market.
The store will feature small-batch coffees as well as products from Italian baker Rocco Princi, the exclusive food provider for new roasteries globally. It will also serve alcohol.
“Coming to Italy — strategically, it’s not the biggest market in the world,” chief executive officer Howard Schultz said in an interview.
“But it’s the most important market for me personally and for the company. Why? Because the Italians mastered coffee way before Starbucks.”
After the Milan venue opens, Starbucks’ Italian licensee and business partner, Percassi, will open a small number of other stores in the city during the balance of 2018. The company also plans to expand to other locations in Italy.
When asked about how many stores are planned for the country, Mr Schultz told reporters: “Our history has been 10 to 12 stores in the first year, and I think that’s a safe number.”
Mr Schultz, who is stepping down as CEO in April, plans to focus on building out the roastery chain — which are bigger Starbucks that offer higher-end coffee and let customers sample the goods. The executive also is developing the company’s new Reserve brand, which includes coffee, cafes, and roastery locations. Chief operating officer Kevin Johnson will take over the CEO job.
Starbucks opened its first roastery in Seattle in 2014. Mr Schultz said that location “has been labelled the Willy Wonka of coffee, and we’re going to take that and put it on steroids for the Italian experience.”.
The Milan site will be the first Starbucks roastery in Europe and the fifth globally. Starbucks said at its recent investor day that it plans to open 20 to 30 roasteries around the world. Mr Schultz decided to build a coffee-shop chain after visiting Italy in 1983.
Starbucks said last year that it originally planned to open its first Italian outlet in 2017. When the company opens its Milan location next year it will face smaller challengers, such as Italian coffee maker Illy, which have already drawn consumers away from local espresso bars.
“We’re not coming to Italy to teach the Italians how to make coffee,” Mr Schultz said.
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