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How Starbucks Has Been Able To Conquer Italians

Alessio enjoys traveling and discovering new cultures and food traditions.

A white chocolate mocha at an Italian Starbucks coffee shop.

A white chocolate mocha at an Italian Starbucks coffee shop.

Why is Starbucks so successful in the world? The reasons are many: indeed, their beverages are delicious. In addition, the culture of accommodating people at the tables, with the ability to stop even for a long time and benefit from a WiFi connection, is something liked by people who want to drink their favorite Frappuccino while studying or working. In addition, also the idea of taking a coffee beverage away and drinking it while walking and doing something else is excellent. Starbucks has created a new way to enjoy coffee, and people welcome it, exactly like it happened with bubble tea.

Starbucks Has Always Been Skeptical of Entering the Italian Market

People traveling to Italy have surely noticed one thing: in this country, you won't find chains like Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, or Starbucks. Pizza chains avoided entering a market that is, for obvious reasons, saturated with artisanal Italian pizzerias, just like coffee chains avoided starting a business here, where Italian coffee tradition is the opposite of what Starbucks offers in the USA and the rest of the world. In Italy, you would mostly drink espresso, cappuccino, and other hot beverages you have at the moment while standing at the counter of the Italian coffee shop. Many Italians see coffee as something to drink at the moment for a minute before going elsewhere; otherwise, you may choose to sit at a table, but usually for just having your drink and nothing more.

Times Change, in Italy Too

Food chains avoided entering the Italian market for a long time because they were very concerned about their business model's possible failure in a country with particular pride in local traditions.
It is still something that commonly happens with the oldest generations, who culturally bond to the tradition they have followed for decades and are less keen to try new things like drinking a Frappuccino while walking. Still, the world changed and Italy too: although it is not typical to find someone drinking Italian coffee since he was a teen and who suddenly wants to try a new coffee habit, young people are still those who, due to social media, movies, a general less strict tie to what are the local traditions (it is understandable if you think those oldest generations of Italians drink coffee the way they mean it since their youth, while new generations are indeed newbies into the world of coffee), tend to welcome new things like Starbucks coffee in their country. Of course, they don't give up on their Italian traditions; they want to try something new. That is why Starbucks entered the Italian market two years ago.

Me, drinking at a Starbucks coffee shop.

Me, drinking at a Starbucks coffee shop.

First Starbucks in Italy Is a Premium Coffee Shop

Starbucks approached the Italian market cautiously: if you think the first Italian coffee shop by the Siren is like the one near your house, you are wrong. Starbucks managed to open their first coffee shop here in Milan, in the city center: it is a giant building, resulting from the renewal of an old post office, with a modern and futuristic environment. Still, the fact that catches attention is that the first Italian coffee shop opened by the Seattle-based chain is not a common Starbucks: it is a Starbucks Reserve Roastery.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery: The Premium Coffee Experience

The world features a few Starbucks Reserve Roasteries, all in the city centers of extensive metropolitan areas. The coffee chain welcomed Italy by opening one of its most exclusive shops, but how does a Starbucks Reserve Roastery differ from a typical coffee shop? The Roastery serves primarily Italian coffee beverages in Italy, welcoming Italian traditions. In addition to the most classic ones, the Roastery added some unique creations targeted to the local market and served at the moment (you can still ask for a takeaway cup if you want, but it is not something automatic like in your local Starbucks). The roasting process of coffee happens in the same building, and you can even choose among different variants of blends to compose your beverage. The Roastery is a temple of coffee in the center of Milan, something welcoming Italian traditions, not replacing them.

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Some coffee drinks ordered at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery of Milan.

Some coffee drinks ordered at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery of Milan.

A matcha cappuccino and a lemon plumcake at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery of Milan.

A matcha cappuccino and a lemon plumcake at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery of Milan.

Other Starbucks Stores in Italy Are More Similar to the One Near Your House

After opening the Reserve Roastery, Starbucks managed to open traditional coffee shops by always choosing Milan due to its international environment and highly developed tourism; then, it is gradually spreading to the country's other big cities. In this way, we can notice another cautious way to approach the Italian market, by choosing crowded areas where also tourists can stop for a coffee. This strategy awarded Starbucks, which nowadays features many customers among tourists and the same Italians. Starbucks in Italy has these peculiarities:

  • Featuring warm colors everywhere: the coffee shops' design meets the Italian taste for warm colors that typically characterize traditional coffee shops in the country.
  • Featuring Italian cornetto (like croissants, one of the most famous food for Italians to be eaten at breakfast) among the various pastries.
  • Proposing Italian coffee drinks in addition to Frappuccino and the other beverages that have made Starbucks famous everywhere.
  • Serving food like sandwiches, pizza (primarily available in the Reserve Roastery and baked by Princi, a renowned bakery in Milan), and healthy drinks like smoothies.
Inside an Italian Starbucks coffee shop.

Inside an Italian Starbucks coffee shop.

Italian breakfast at Starbucks.

Italian breakfast at Starbucks.

Some sandwiches at an Italian Starbucks coffee shop.

Some sandwiches at an Italian Starbucks coffee shop.

Conclusions

As an Italian, I feel Starbucks did a great job meeting our local coffee tradition by also proposing the iconic drinks that made the Siren famous worldwide.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Alessio Ganci

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