The newest Starbucks Reserve Roastery, in New York City's Meatpacking District, opened at 7 a.m. Friday. At 6:59, the line stretched around the corner, and TV crews gathered as the crowd shouted a countdown. When the doors opened, employees cheered and applauded, and the first customers poured into the store. The Roastery is Starbucks on steroids: a 23,000-square-foot wonderland for coffee lovers--and a fascinating lesson in customer service for connoisseurs of the ubiquitous coffee chain's business model.
Here are six of the unusual features of the upscale outpost:
1. It's huge.
The "immersive coffee experience" in New York is Starbucks's fourth Roastery, and its second in the U.S. (Two more are set to open in Chicago and Tokyo next year.) The Roastery, which is across the street from Chelsea Market and Google's New York headquarters, employs about 300 people and has three levels, with two coffee bars and an outpost of Italian bakery chain Princi. Two giant roasters stir coffee beans slowly in front of an enormous copper cask, and copper and glass tubes snake across the ceiling, ferrying beans to glass silos at each coffee bar. A copper and bronze sculpture of the Siren on the company's logo, created by a local artist, adorns one wall.
2. It has a bar.
Not only does the Roastery feel like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory crossed with a mid-century cocktail bar, it also has an actual cocktail bar on the upper level. The Arriviamo Bar debuted in the Milan Roastery and features coffee- and tea-infused drinks like the Nocino Notte, "made with cold brew coffee, barrel-aged gin and black truffle salt." (On the opening morning, the bar was closed to customers. CNBC host Jim Cramer was there to shoot an interview with Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi about Starbucks's newly announced delivery service with UberEats.)
3. It's expensive.
Along with classic espresso drinks, the Roastery offers specialty drinks, tasting flights, and a variety of coffee-brewing methods that aren't on offer at typical Starbucks locations. Accordingly, the prices are higher. A cardamom latte, which isn't available at regular locations in the U.S., costs $8.50 ($9.25 with tax). An Americano (espresso with hot water) costs $4.50, a nitro cold brew costs $7, and a flight of three siphon-brewed coffees costs $35.
4. There's table service.
The Roastery's two coffee bars have restaurant-style menus instead of menu boards, and customers can either order at the counter or sit at a table and wait to be served. Baristas circulate, wearing chambray shirts, khaki trousers, and an assortment of retro fedoras and newsboy caps instead of the iconic green Starbucks apron. And, of course, there's free Wi-Fi; one customer quickly settled in with a laptop on the lower level.
5. There's a lot of merch.
Practically every Starbucks location sells branded Starbucks mugs and bags of coffee beans, but at the Roastery, several tables on the main floor display clothing, glassware, art, and dozens of gifts branded with the Starbucks Reserve logo. At a counter in the corner, customers can buy a wide variety of beans in bulk to take home.
6. It's across the street from another Starbucks.
There are 350 Starbucks locations in New York City, according to the company, so the "Starbucks on every corner" trope has some truth to it. Indeed, on the opposite corner of 9th Avenue and 15th Street, there is a much smaller Starbucks, where a handful of customers waited in line for their morning coffee, unmoved by the fanfare at the Roastery.