Starbucks’ is finally expanding into Italy. The brand’s first Reserve Roastery in Europe opens today in a luxurious former post office on the Piazza Cordusio in Milan. The company says the store is “both an homage to the city of Milan and a celebration of everything Starbucks has learned about coffee in its 47-year history.” The Reserve store will feature its traditional coffee beverages as well as artisanal cocktails and baked goods from Rocco Princi, a renowned local baker who opened his first shop in Milan in 1985.
The new Milan shop will also feature “an interactive augmented reality (AR) experience,” that is designed to “encourage customers to use their mobile device to uncover more about Starbucks Reserve coffees, the roasting process, and the company.”
The 25,000-square-foot Reserve Roastery in Milan will add 300 new jobs to the local economy and will be followed by regular Starbucks cafes that will be operated with local franchisee Percassi. The chain’s entry into the Italian market has taken a long time. Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ longtime CEO and now chairman emeritus, had targeted Italy as a new market in 1998, telling The New Yorker that opening a shop in the country would be “to climb Mount Everest.” That same year, Starbucks opened its first international shop in London, but Italy was still untouchable.
“During my first trip to Milan in 1983, I was captivated by the sense of community I found in the city’s espresso bars — the moments of human connection that passed so freely and genuinely between baristas and their customers,” Schultz said in a statement. “The opening of the Milan Roastery is the story of Starbucks coming full circle.”
Italians have long resisted Starbucks, mostly because of the pride they take in their legendary coffee. After all, what would Starbucks be without espressos, cappuccinos, and macchiatos? When Bloomberg interviewed Italians to get their opinion on Starbuck’s Milan debut, many asked, “Is Starbucks even coffee?” Others added, “Americans don’t know how to make coffee.”
Alexandre Loeur, an analyst at Euromonitor International, says that “cracking the home of coffee culture is a tough challenge, with many Italians deriding the move as ridiculous.” Loeur, however, believes that the brand may eventually do well “in the medium to long-term.”
Starbucks is well aware of the challenges it faces in Italy. Liz Muller, Starbucks’ chief design officer, told the AP the company is “not coming to Italy to teach people about coffee. This is where coffee was born.” Instead, the company will focus on offering “a premium experience that is different from what people in Italy are used to.”
The new Milan shop was inaugurated with an invite-only gala yesterday and officially opened its doors to customers today at 9 am. Seattle and Shanghai are the only other cities to host Starbucks Reserve stores, though additional upscale cafes are planned in Chicago, New York, and Tokyo.