Italy Is Getting Its First Starbucks and Italians Are Conflicted

The “most beautiful Starbucks in the world” is opening in Milan this week and not everyone is thrilled.

There are Starbucks stores in 77 countries across the globe, but until this week, Italy wasn’t one of of them. That will all change when the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milan opens to the public on September 7 in the historic Palazzo Delle Poste building on Piazza Cordusio in the center of town.

The coffee giant is calling its very first Italian cafe its “the most beautiful Starbucks in the world,” and the photos of the massive 25,000 square-foot space reveal that it is truly unlike any other Starbucks you’ve seen before. 

With Tuscan marble bar tops, a bright green Scolari coffee roaster made by a family-owned company outside of Milan, and a mosaic floor hand-laid by local artisans with marble sourced from the same quarry that the Duomo of Milan uses, the aesthetic details are on point.

The menu will also focus on serving Italian classics instead of catering to U.S. customers (so no frappuccinos and muffins for you). Instead, there will be an affogato station with made-to-order ice cream and a cocktail bar serving drinks in the afternoon on the mezzanine level in addition to a full espresso drink menu.

Despite the use of many locally-sourced materials and the focus on Italian fare, Italians are conflicted about introduction of Starbucks into a city known for its coffee bar culture. The reactions on Twitter have ranged from vague curiosity, to outrage, to sarcasm about the necessity of yet another coffee shop in Milan.

 

The Local Italy, an English-language news network based in Europe, polled users on Twitter in May. Of 228 respondents, 87 percent said no thanks to the new Starbucks.

Milano Today revealed that the prices for its espresso drinks are wildly more expensive (about 80 percent on average) than you’d typically get at any other coffee bar in Milan. For example, data from the Ministry of Economic Development says that on average espresso in Milan costs €1, but at the new Starbucks location the same drink will cost €1.80. Starbucks cappuccinos will cost €4.50, compared to the average €1.34 at other locations in Milan.

However, at least one Twitter user was drawn to the building’s design, if not the coffee itself.

Whether you love it or hate it, after the Reserve Roastery Milan opens, Starbucks says it plans to open a “small number” of additional cafés later this year in Milan with its Italian licensee Percassi. However, it appears that Starbucks may have learned its lesson about expanding too quickly in a country known for its coffee culture after being forced to close dozens of underperforming Australian locations over the past decade. Starbucks says that each of the new stores—which will create hundreds of new jobs in Milan—will be “carefully designed and curated to respect the local community and unique Milanese context.”

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