A trip to Milan and Verona in 1983 inspired Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Then the Marketing Director of Starbucks, which sold whole-bean coffee from a handful of stores in Seattle, became a global empire of coffee chains of which Italian espresso bar traditions are intrinsic.
"The Italian had created the theatre, romance, art and magic of experiencing espresso," Schultz recalled. "I was overwhelmed with a guy instinct that this is what we should be doing."
It's interesting then, that in the 33 years since Schultz' visit, Starbucks has yet to foray into the Italian market itself. Until now. Come 2017, the beverage giant will begin opening Starbucks stores in Milan and other Italian cities, in partnership with Italian developer Percassi.
“Starbucks history is directly linked to the way the Italians created and executed the perfect shot of espresso,” Schultz explained. “Everything that we’ve done sits on the foundation of those wonderful experiences,” Schultz added. “Now we’re going to try, with great humility and respect, to share what we’ve been doing and what we've learned through our first retail presence in Italy. Our first store will be designed with painstaking detail and great respect for the Italian people and coffee culture. And, my hope is that we will create a sense of pride for our partners - so much so that every partner who sees our store or walks through the doors will say: 'We got it right.'"
Starbucks already has a presence in Europe, but it has not been as successful there as in other markets. The company entered Britain in 1998 and took 17 years to turn a profit. It will be a massive challenge to win over the Italian market but if anyone can do it, it's Schultz.