Decades after taking inspiration from Italian culture to start their own coffee business, Starbucks have finally opened their first store in Milan. There has been a degree of controversy around this, as Italy is famously very passionate about coffee with it being a large part of their national identity. So how have the Italian public reacted to this move, and what it the impact likely to be on the more traditional coffee shops?
Italian coffee culture
As the originators of the espresso and the cappuccino, Italy is considered by most to be the cultural heart of artisan coffee. Anyone who has been to an authentic Italian coffeehouse will know they take their coffee VERY seriously, with tradition being almost as important as the beverage itself. The most common model used for coffee shops in Italy is a little different to what we’re used to here in the UK. Coffee is mostly just drunk at the bar rather than being taken away, in fact most traditional establishments won’t have take-away cups at all and charge more to use a table.
Of course, the kind of coffee shops that are popular across the US and UK have adopted a different layout, relying on a combination of supplying coffee to take away and comfortable seating areas to relax when drinking in. This could mean that Starbucks offer a completely different experience to the norm for Italian customers and may end up carving out its own niche in the market.
How has it been received?
It’s very early days yet so it’s yet to be seen how successful a move this will be for the Seattle based mega-brand, but opening day was certainly popular. Eager Italians queued around the corner on Friday to be some of the first customers in the new store, although it may not have just been to try the Frappuccino. Starbucks have gone all out for their first foray into the Italian market, creating a beautiful store/roastery in an iconic former post office right in the centre of Milan. The drinks aren’t generally what most Italians are used to, but Starbucks have definitely done their best to approach this new venture with respect.
What does it mean for the coffee industry?
If Starbucks can prosper in arguably the most ardently traditional coffee scene in the world, it says a lot for how the line is blurring between specialist coffee shops and larger commercial ventures. For larger businesses this could mean needing to work to improve the quality of their beverages, and independent stores may find themselves needing to find a way to increase efficiency without impacting taste.
A great middle ground between the two could be to automate espresso production using the WMF espresso. With automated grinding and tamping, the barista can focus on preparing the milk to make a delicious hand-crafted beverage at speed, without compromising on quality.
Download a brochure to see the full range of WMF coffee machines and related products.