March 3, 2017

Why Starbucks Will Struggle in Italy – And Why It Might Succeed


You can’t fault Starbucks for a lack of ambition. Despite having previously struggled in Australia, they’re now setting their sights on another coffee mecca: Italy. Yes, that Italy. The capital of espresso. The place where specialty struggles.

They will begin by launching a Grand Reserve Roastery in Piazza Cordusio, Milan. But will it succeed? And what does it mean for specialty coffee if it does?

SEE ALSO: Starbucks’ Cascara Latte: What Does It Mean For Specialty?

Starbucks Treads Carefully

Starbucks actually announced its venture into Italy a year ago, when they said they would do it “with humility and respect”. Given that they offer an Americanised version of Italian coffee,  this self-consciousness comes as no surprise.

“Starbucks’ history is directly linked to the way the Italians created and executed the perfect shot of espresso… we’ve aspired to be a respectful steward of that legacy for 45 years,” said Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks until April 2017.

Starbucks logo

Will the Starbucks logo become common place in Italy?

So Will Starbucks Succeed in Italy?

Italians are famously proud of their espresso culture. And those tiny shots look very different to a venti Caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream and sauce. For some, the idea of Starbucks taking over the Italian espresso scene seems ludicrous. From disparaging Twitter posts to the burning of Starbucks-funded palm trees (as reported in the LA Times), Italians have made their thoughts known.

But Starbucks doesn’t just sell coffee. It also sells a space, complete with free WiFi, for people to hang out in. That’s something that’s not so easy to find in Italy. The BBC points out that young people, in particular, may be attracted to this.

And let’s face it, if their parents dislike Starbucks, that’s more likely to encourage than discourage younger people from going there.

Starbucks mug

Starbucks sells more than just coffee.

What Does This Mean For Specialty?

The third wave is growing in Italy, although it’s still not commonplace. If Starbucks succeeds, it could encourage more Italians to try less traditional shops and brewing methods. It’s possible that, for those who are staunchly anti-Starbucks, it could become a case of “At least it’s not the green mermaid.”

And if Starbucks fails? Those who liked the idea of it may come flocking to places where you can slowly sip on a V60. Those who didn’t will probably always prefer to sip on a traditional Italian espresso – no matter how hard we try.

Perfect Daily Grind is not affiliated with any of the individuals or bodies mentioned in this article, and cannot endorse them.

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