Starbucks, that wee Seattle success story that's grown into the largest coffee brand on the planet with over 20,000 locations worldwide, is set to open shop in Milan in early 2017. Its move into Italian territory is both symbolic and historic for the $86 billion brand. Here's why:
1. Howard Schultz, who purchased Starbucks from its founders in 1987, was inspired to bring espresso drinks stateside after a business trip to Milan and Verona in the 1980s. You could say that paid off for him (and that would be the understatement of the year).
2. Schultz credits "the craftsmanship of the Milanese barista, the spirit of the Italian people, their passion for community, their friendliness and taste for quality," as the root of his vision for Starbucks as it is today.
3. Starbucks' European stores historically haven't been among their most successful, and combined with their stores in the Middle East and Africa, make up just 10% of their stores worldwide.
4. Starbucks is partnering with brand, retail and property developer Percassi, the licensee that will own and operate Starbucks stores in Italy.
5. In the media release announcing Starbucks' foray into the Italian market, the brand said it's turned its eye toward Italy with "humility and respect."
6. Starbucks is relying heavily on the experience of local developer Percassi to adequately address the needs of the Italian marketplace. Schultz said, "Our first store will be designed with painstaking detail and great respect for the Italian people and coffee culture."
7. Starbucks is in good hands in Italy. Percassi's portfolio includes cosmetics brands Kiko Milano and Womo, footwear company Vergelio, sports and food services brands, and a sales network including Gucci, Polo Ralph Lauren, Nike, Victoria's Secret and LEGO Group. Percassi has also developed stores internationally for Benetton and helped Swatch, Guess, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Levi's enter and grow in the Italian market.
8. Italy might be the Starbucks' most insanely competitive market yet. Italians consume 14 billion espressos a year and an average of 3.7kg of coffee.
9. Starbucks might also find its most experienced talent pool yet in Italy. An estimated 270,000 Italians work as baristas, with 57.5% reporting they have 10 years or more experience.
10. Among the friends they're going to have to make, Starbucks needs to get off on the right foot with the Italian Espresso National Institute, which was created to protect Italian-style coffee drinking. "International chains of cafes are spreading, calling the coffee they serve Italian espresso," writes INEI's chairman Luigi Zecchini on the organisation's website. But, "behind our espresso... there is a unique and unrepeatable culture."
11. Italian bars typically use around 7 grams of ground coffee per espresso, with very little variation. Most bars will charge no more than one Euro per cup. Starbucks produces some of the most heavily caffeinated espresso on the planet, so it will be interesting to see how Italians react to their recipes, selection and pricing models.