The highly publicised grand opening of Starbucks’ new reserve roastery in Milan’s Palazzo della Poste already has many observers wondering whether the coffee giant’s gamble in Italy’s traditional coffee shop market will pay off.

Lauded by the chain as being ‘the most beautiful Starbucks in the world’, the store is fitted with locally-sourced marble floors and bar tops and is designed to offer visitors a unique, theatrical and immersive consumer experience. In addition to the chain’s wide selection of signature coffee drinks, customers can also sample cocktails, wood-fired pizza, fresh-made pastries and bread.

Despite resistance and scepticism from locals, this premium Starbucks store is bound for success in the months to come, and in the long-term. Firstly, the roastery is located just a short distance away from the famous Duomo di Milano and other top visitor attractions, ensuring a near-constant stream of visits by Milan’s many tourists, looking to take a break in the impressive historic Poste building.

Furthermore, the roastery is also set to be a hit with local consumers seeking out novel and experiential ways to enjoy their favourite foods and beverages. While the vast majority of Italy’s traditional coffee bars focus primarily on serving high-quality €1.00 espresso shots to on-the-go consumers, Starbucks are looking to encourage higher ticket prices and longer dwell-times by selling more than coffee, but an experience. For example, visitors who download the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milano Augmented Reality (AR) app can then use it to explore points of interest in the building and learn more about the brand’s history and coffee-making process.

The Italian coffee & tea shop market was worth approximately € 44.8 billion in 2017, making it more valuable than the country’s QSR and FSR channels combined, and it is expected to keep growing by 1.9% over the next five years. Starbucks is looking to carve a space for themselves in this lucrative market by offering something new and targeting an entirely distinct audience and occasion type than the small independently-run operators that currently dominate the market.

With their premium roastery concept, Starbucks is also hoping to change some negative local perceptions of the brand ahead of further store openings later in the year. With its grand design, historic location and diverse range of artisan food and coffee offering, this store was created to showcase the very best that the brand has to offer, to ‘earn a place’ in Italy’s much beloved and respected coffee scene. Whether the chain will see long-term success with its upcoming store openings remains to be seen, and will depend strongly on the brand’s ability to ensure sufficient consistency and high quality to ‘convert’ demanding and uncompromising Italian coffee drinkers.

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