starbucks opens first store in italy, tapping its design culture to succeed

starbucks opens first store in italy, tapping its design culture to succeed

marking the start of its plans to open as many as 300 branches in a country of coffee connoisseurs, starbucks today opens its first store in milan, a city where bars are many and coffee is difficult to top. since its introduction in the 1500s, coffee has developed its own culture in italy where days are defined by rituals conducted by devotees, who believe a real espresso or cappuccino tastes very different to the chain’s offerings. how then, does an american giant like starbucks make it’s foray into the motherland of coffee? it goes for the cover-all-bases approach so instead of trying to prove it can do coffee well, it tries to do coffee, pastries, ice cream and the classic italian aperitivo well too, all whilst cleverly tapping into the country’s love of design.

starbucks reserve roastery milan starbucks opens first store in italy culture of design succeed

images courtesy of starbucks



it starts with a location – a historic building on milan’s grandiose piazza cordusio (a stones throw from the duomo) that has according to starbucks CEO, howard shultz, been designed with ‘painstaking detail and great respect for the italian people and coffee culture‘. this starbucks will be distinctly different in its offering as the milanese branch will be the brand’s third reserve roastery and, like its last which opened in shanghai, will comprise a space dedicated to the experience of coffee. 

starbucks reserve roastery milan starbucks opens first store in italy culture of design succeed



inside it offers a 360-degree look at the craft and science of coffee roasting, letting customers walk around the equipment used throughout every stop of the process. from the roaster, to the cooling tray, to the de-gassing chamber and the packing line, the space is filled with theatricals that could be lost on the italian who is used to walking into a standup coffee bar, drinking their shot of coffee and leaving. on the other hand (and this is clever of starbucks), this insight into production could do well in winning them over. half the game in getting an italian on side is to certify a premium level of care and attention has been taken when it comes to the quality of a product, justifying starbucks’ decision to offer something more than counter service.

starbucks reserve roastery milan starbucks opens first store in italy culture of design succeed



and of course to sell coffee to an italian it must be in part ‘authentically italian’ – this is the other half of the game. the roaster, made just a few miles from the center of milan by scolari, favours a family-owned historic coffee manufacturing company which shares a long-standing relationship with starbucks. in a similar vein a 6.5-meter (22-foot) cask – a centrepiece of starbucks roasteries that are usually copper – is cast in bronze to echo the materials prominence across design and architecture in milan.

starbucks reserve roastery milan starbucks opens first store in italy culture of design succeed



on the floor a mosaic technique, handcrafted in the palladian style, a historic technique particular to northern italy and hand-laid by local artisans. one of the marbles used in the flooring is called candoglia, which comes from a quarry owned by the citizens of milan and, until very recently, used exclusively for the duomo of milan and buildings in the surrounding piazza. for the first time starbucks has also used marble in its bar tops (sourced from tuscany), in an effort to echo the espresso bars that feature it across milan.

starbucks reserve roastery milan starbucks opens first store in italy culture of design succeed



what is most clever about starbucks’ approach to breaking the italian market is its attempts to demonstrate a rounded understanding of the country’s culture. beyond coffee and design, the milan roastery’s arriviamo bar offers cocktails and delicacies inspired by the italian apertivo (that’s enjoying a drink in the early evening with nibbles). elsewhere it hosts a princi bakery (a milan-born bakery dedicated to tradition and ancient techniques) and an affogato station where ice cream is made to order in single batches, which partners create by combining the cream base with liquid nitrogen. 

starbucks reserve roastery milan starbucks opens first store in italy culture of design succeed



what varying degrees of success these different elements will experience is yet to be seen. maybe together their introduction – an unwelcome distraction to the several bars that have been serving coffee nearby for years – could diversify the market by creating some healthy competition in terms of what they have to offer.

starbucks reserve roastery milan starbucks opens first store in italy culture of design succeed



paolo gadalet, the president of the italian espresso national institute, said: ‘we are really happy that a large company like starbucks is coming to italy, because we think that the coffee it serves is not like an italian espresso but is still coffee that tastes good.’ the new starbucks reserve roastery milan will open to the public on september 7, 2018.

starbucks reserve roastery milan starbucks opens first store in italy culture of design succeed


    Leonardo Sideri says:
  • theatrical and ridiculous. why do these companies have to stink up the whole world, were they out of room in Las Vegas?

    Alberto says:
  • I agree with leonardo. Just like people are ridiculous and theatrical, that’s why they are going to be successful and succeed. People love this, and it is the only way to attract customers to their places, especially in a coffee country like Italy.

    Antonio Prieto says:
  • A sad day!

    Mike says:
  • We all live in a competitive world. At the end of the day, Starbucks makes coffee that can compete with a lot of other companies throughout the world. What they are doing here is showing Italian coffee culture some respect and overall boosting coffee. For all of the European cynics, do yourselves a favor pull over on a highway and try some truck-stop Lavazza or De’Longhi coffee from one of their coffee bars. Good is not the first term that’s going to pop in your mind. Italy, enjoy the beautiful store!

    dw says:
  • This new Starbucks looks very much like a factory. I guess they couldn’t just do a coffee bar like those found all over in Italy. As a novelty it may appeal to some for a while but personally I find it as cold as a cave. And I won’t even talk about their coffee “cocktails. They are planning to open 300 more bars in Italy. Yes, that’s what Italy lacks, coffee bars!!!

    Paolo 49 says:
  • I’ll ad one more comment … there’s something dystopian about this designed stage set. This is a form of idol worship… a cathedral to coffee.

    Leonardo Sideri says:
  • It says a lot that they have to put on such a show, while simple, humble, hole-in-the-wall cafes serve the very best without the fireworks. You are paying (a high price) for a show at Starbucks. I would take an espresso served simply by good people with good conversation over the hype any time.

    Meg says:
  • There is a wise old saying used in my industry, “you can’t put lipstick on a pig”. Unless Starbucks instead to source their beans from somewhere better, their coffee is still going to taste awful. I’m also not sure what is wrong with their machines, but the consistency of milk seems different – American coffee is very different from European and Australian tastes. It doesn’t matter how much theatre and style you put on it. Coffee is an industry in mature coffee markets (with the exception of the USA) that has not been successful in scale. Boutique curated has always been more successful than large national brands.

    Gerald says:
  • One wonders how they can afford the initial cost of the design and installation. Oh I know, pay minuscule tax on the money earned and reflect those costs in the price of the coffee.

    Gerry M says:
  • I wish Illy coffee could take over the world instead of Starbucks.
    Sadly with all the tourists in Milano this shop is bound to succeed. It would be satisfying to see them fail in the long term however (see Australia).

    Davide says:
  • Also for the person comparing Italian coffee to Australian coffee.. PLEASE. American coffee is more similar to Italian coffee than that cat piss they all drink in Australia. My above comment about Starbucks succeeding in Italy has nothing to do with the quality of Italian coffee and more to do with Italians in general.

    adam says:

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