Get ready: Starbucks coming to Italy

Get ready: Starbucks coming to Italy

In this image taken on Monday, a view of the old headquarters of Poste italiane SpA during renovation works to host the Starbucks cafeteria in Milan. (AP photo)
In this image taken on Monday, a view of the old headquarters of Poste italiane SpA during renovation works to host the Starbucks cafeteria in Milan. (AP photo)

Milan/London: Starbucks Corp, 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 2,370-square-metre retail space will open in a historic post office building in the city's centre in late 2018, about a year later than Starbucks had planned to enter the Italian market.

The store in Piazza Cordusio will feature premium, small-batch coffees as well as products from Italian artisan baker Rocco Princi, the exclusive food provider for all new Roastery locations globally. It will also serve alcohol.

"Coming to Italy -- strategically, it's not the biggest market in the world," chief executive Howard Schultz said in an interview with Bloomberg Television's Francine Lacqua at a Princi bakery in Milan.

"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 Italy, Schultz said in a separate briefing with reporters: "Our history has been 10 to 12 stores in the first year, and I think that's a safe number."

In 1983, Schultz travelled to Milan and Verona and became so enthralled with the country's espresso bars that he decided to build a coffee-shop chain.

Starbucks said last year that it originally planned to open its first Italian outlet in 2017.

"It took us some time to find it, but once I walked through the building, I knew it would be the perfect location," Schultz said.

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 at tasting stations.

The executive also is developing the company's new Reserve brand, which includes coffee, cafes and Roastery locations. Chief operating officer Kevin Johnson, meanwhile, will take over the CEO job.

Starbucks opened its first Roastery in Seattle in 2014. 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," Schultz said.

The Milan location will be the first Starbucks Roastery in Europe, the Middle East or Africa, and the fifth globally. In addition to spotlighting the company's premium coffees, the Roastery stores can serve as a testing place for new products and ideas.

Starbucks said at its recent investor day that it planned to open 20 to 30 Roastery locations around the world.

Espresso bars have long been at the center of community life for most Italians, who make it a daily ritual to sip -- usually standing up -- a short shot of espresso or a cappuccino as they discuss topics from politics to soccer.

Schultz, who took his inspiration from this culture, has opened stores in more than 70 countries over more than three decades before circling back to Italy.

Still, when Starbucks opens its Milan location next year it will face smaller challengers, such as Italian coffeemaker 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," Schultz said. "We're coming to Italy to be a respectful servant of what the coffee culture has been and earn their respect along the way."

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