Starbucks opened its first coffee shop in central Milan today, with more to follow. Are they crazy?
First, congratulations to Starbucks on a beautiful new store. Starbucks calls it the “crown jewel of Starbucks global retail footprint” and I can understand why. Check out these pictures:
But count me among the extremely skeptical. I’ve never lived in Italy, but I’ve visited more than enough times to know this: Starbucks is the last thing Italians need. Come on, when exquisite coffee is available at coffee shops all over the country, heck, even every roadside gas station, does Starbucks really expect to sell its coffee at a huge premium?
Perhaps I’m being too judgmental here. Starbucks promises:
…a place where Italian customers can come to discover the art and science of coffee in a breath-taking environment that is both an homage to the city of Milan and a celebration of everything Starbucks has learned about coffee in its 47-year history.
You can read the rest of the very flowery press release here, but I’ll quote one more section:
We have spent the past year living and breathing the city of Milan, working closely with dozens of local artisans to bring to life our most beautiful retail experience that engages each one of our customers’ senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and of course, taste,” said Liz Muller, chief design officer, Starbucks. “From the palladiana flooring that was chiseled by hand to the bright green clackerboard made by Italian craftsman Solari, everything you see in the Roastery is intentional, offering moments of discovery and transparency.
The press release truly makes it sounds amazing. And maybe it will be. But a couple months ago I took my wife to a Starbucks Reserve in Honolulu and thought the pricey premium coffee did not taste different than the normal stuff. Sure, it was a more authentic “coffee” atmosphere, but the coffee still had that distinct Starbucks taste despite being double the price.
I far prefer the taste of roadside coffee at Italian gas stations along the Autostrade:
I know what constitutes good coffee is extremely subjective. And perhaps the new Starbucks will do well as a tourist attraction. But I have to wonder whether the most important thing, the coffee, will be exquisite.
Will you visit Starbucks in Milan?