Starbucks Comes To Italy

Sep 6, 2018
Originally published on September 6, 2018 2:58 pm
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Tomorrow, Starbucks will open its first store in Italy, the country that considers itself coffee's spiritual home. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli knows coffee, and she knows Italy. And she says the company has set itself up for a challenge.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: The company's press release describes the Milan store as the crown jewel of Starbucks's global retail footprint. It opens 35 years after founder Howard Schultz visited the city that inspired him to start what's now a worldwide chain of some 25,000 stores. The American coffee showcase is located in the bustling city center, inside an imposing former post office more than a hundred years old. Cliff Burrows, a Starbucks partner who has been with the Milan project since Day 1, says the company enters the Italian market with great humility.

CLIFF BURROWS: We knew if we were coming to Milan, we had to bring something very special to share with the people of Milan.

POGGIOLI: The 25,000-square-foot location has been extravagantly renovated with brass, copper and marble fittings, a theatrical setting where customers can watch as beans are roasted, transported along winding copper pipes lining the ceiling and turned into dozens of different brews.

BURROWS: It's a beautiful way to share a cup of coffee - so mixing tradition with new experiences.

POGGIOLI: Italians are discriminating coffee drinkers. Espresso is usually consumed quickly, standing up at a bar. And there are more than 57,000 cafes across the country, perhaps a world record. Journalist Beppe Severgnini, an expert on Italian and American social customs, says the test of the store's success will be its prices.

BEPPE SEVERGNINI: In Italian, it's 1 euro for one coffee, 2 euro for a cappuccino. The idea of because you call it Frappuccino and you pay 6 euros is no way.

POGGIOLI: At the Milan Starbucks, an espresso will cost nearly double - 1.80 - and a cappuccino will jump to 5 euros. For the time being - no Frappuccinos.

Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Milan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.