Italy is to get its first-ever Starbucks, leading the firm’s chairman to assure outraged locals: “We are not coming here to teach Italians how to make coffee”.
The Milan branch, housed in a historic former post office in Piazza Cordusio, will be the chain’s largest outlet in Europe when it opens in September, employing around 150 workers.
For its first venture in a country which considers itself the gold standard of coffee, the US-based firm, which has more than 27,000 outlets around the world, is proceeding with tangible caution.
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“We're coming here with humility and respect, to show what we've learned,” executive chairman Howard Schulz said at a conference in Milan on Monday.
The Italian opening represents a kind of full circle for Schulz, who says he was inspired to start up the coffee chain after a visit to the city in 1983. “My imagination was captured by Italian coffee,” he said.
However, “Starbucks has a battle on its hands to make sure its arrival doesn't leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Italian coffee lovers”, who guzzle down six billion espressos every year, says The Local.
The main challenge will be convincing Italian coffee drinkers, used to gulping down their drink at a counter on their way, to open their minds to the more drawn-out Starbucks experience.
Starbucks is a sort of “public lounge”, Milano Today told its readers, “where you can stop to eat, but also relax, work and chat”.
Italy has long been resistant to the incursion of foreign takeaway chains. The nation’s first McDonald’s opened in Rome amid much controversy in 1985, years after the golden arches had arrived in most other Western European nations.
The move to Italy proved “especially difficult”, says LifeinItaly.com. Fashion designer Valentino, headquartered a few doors away, “sued the chain, maintaining the smell of their fries was ruining his clothes”.
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