It was only a matter of time. Starbucks, long described as the evil empire of coffee, is set to invade Italy sometime in 2017. The Seattle-based multinational company plans to open a Reserve roastery in downtown Milan, its first ever entry into the Italian market. Wait, isn’t Italy already globally recognized for it delicious, deep-roasted coffee? Didn’t Starbucks originally steal its Italian style coffee from Italy?
Howard Shultz, the CEO of Starbucks, says the company plans to open stores in Italy, the country nicknamed the “home of coffee,” with “humility and respect.” Still, many Italians will no doubt agree that building a 25,500 square-foot coffee space in central Milan is anything but respectful. After the launch of the Reserve roastery, Starbucks plans to open a number of small stores in Milan by 2018. All in all, the company hopes to open 20 to 30 roastery cafes throughout the world.
Will Starbucks be able to establish a niche for itself in the home of espresso? It’s hard to say, really. Italians can already order a superior (and cheaper) cup of coffee at any of Milan’s numerous coffeehouses. So what is Starbucks really trying to sell to an already caffeinated Italian populace?
According to Wired magazine, Starbucks is selling its ambiance and environment. Starbucks traffics in a sort of bland and comforting internationalism. People don’t just go to Starbucks for the muffins and strong, slightly burnt tasting coffee. They go because Starbucks offers a neutral, inoffensive environment where they can work on their laptops or meet for first dates. The unimposing space makes people feel at home. In the end, Starbucks is hoping to sell its atmosphere to the Italians, not its coffee.