Starbucks Plans to Open a Location in Milan and Italians Are Freaking Out

March 1st 2016

Kyle Jaeger

Starbucks plans to open its first-ever location in Italy next year, the company announced on Monday. But don't expect all Italians to roll out the red carpet for the coffee empire.

While Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says he was inspired to launch the coffee franchise during a business trip to Milan and Verona more than 30 years ago, the chain has steered clear of the country since it opened its first location in Seattle in 1971. News of Starbucks' forthcoming debut in Milan has riled espresso lovers in Italy, some of whom expressed their discontent on Twitter, in Italian (and Spanish) — naturally.

"Safe place when you are abroad and it is cold, but in Italy no thanks. I prefer our bars!"

"#StarbucksItalia is like when Mexico put in a #tacobell."

"Be careful, the arrival of #StarbucksItalia is going to destroy us. #keepcalm"

"Obviously the news of #StarbucksItalia is a fake, but I do not exclude it could be a marketing strategy to test our reaction."

Why are some Italians opposed to Starbucks?

It's not so much the quality of Starbucks products that has Italians in a panic. Rather, the American cafe experience — the one Starbucks arguably exemplifies — is a far cry from the espresso bar-style experience you will find in Italy, WIRED reports. Italians tend to get their fix in the form of espresso shots, gulped down in haste, whereas Americans (stereotypically) order decorative lattes and enjoy them at the store for hours on end.


"Starbucks history is directly linked to the way the Italians created and executed the perfect shot of espresso," Shultz said in a press release on Monday. "Everything that we’ve done sits on the foundation of those wonderful experiences that many of us have had in Italy, and we’ve aspired to be a respectful steward of that legacy for 45 year."

Shultz explained what people can expect to see in Italy:

"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 is making an international push.

Over the last five years, Starbucks has expanded rapidly — from about 16,000 retail locations to more than 23,000 as of 2015, according to Statista — and the company is making a concerted effort to develop a customer base in the global market. When Shultz released the company's five-year plan in 2014, he emphasized opportunities for expansion in countries such as China, India, Japan, and Brazil.


I asked a friend of mine, Petra Paiè, a PhD student from Milan, what she made of the Starbucks move and after discussing it with some friends, she said that they don't think it will be a complete failure "because Italians are fascinated by many American things."

"But also I personally do not think it will really change our habits since we are quite proud of our coffee traditions," Paiè added.

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