Starbucks will open its first store in Italy in early 2017. The announcement was made by none other than Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who was recently in Milan for Fashion Week, where he met with a group of Italian business leaders and journalists to talk about his plans for the first Italian Starbucks.
Scheduled to open at the beginning of 2017 in the center of Milan, the store is expected to be the first of several set to open in other Italian cities throughout 2017.
According to an article published on the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Schultz said he is personally involved in the opening of the first Starbucks in Italy. “Our mission is to surpass Milan residents’ expectations,” he was quoted saying. “ I am personally involved in every detail, for me the first Italian Starbucks isn’t just about business, it’s a personal question.”
After all, Schultz came up with the idea of launching a coffee shop chain after a business trip to Milan in 1983, during which he noticed the large number of coffee shops (bar in Italian) in the city and the ritual of coffee drinking in Italian society. That inspired him to try to recreate the same experience and coffee culture in the U.S. The idea was clearly a winning one, as Starbucks has not only become ubiquitous in the U.S., but has also expanded to the rest of the world (there are roughly 24,000 Starbucks stores in the world). The rest of the world, except Italy – so far.
“I didn’t feel ready for Italy,” Schultz said. “I felt for a long time we hadn’t earned the right to open here. But after all these years, I can say we have learned the craft and honored Italian culture around the world. It’s a dream I’ve had since 1983. Now the time has come, and it will all begin in Milan, the capital of food, fashion and style.”
Starbucks certainly isn’t entering the Italian market with the expectation to teach Italians how to roast coffee or how to prepare an expresso, Schultz pointed out: “We’re coming here with great humility to present our interpretation of the coffee experience, whose main component is to create a sense of community, a third place between home and the workplace.”
Just as in its other stores around the world, the Italian Starbucks will recreate comfortable spaces, with music and wi-fi. At the same time, Schultz said, Starbucks will honor and adapt to Italian culture by having the classic bar counter, for Italians who still prefer to drink their coffee standing, and by creating a special blend to suit the taste of the Milanesi. “It’ll be a classic, dynamic and elegant Starbucks store,” Schultz said, “but in terms of experience, atmosphere and design, it’ll be immediately obvious how much we respect the Italian people and their coffee culture.”