Starbucks is predicted to have another outstanding year ahead thanks to their relentless strategy of appealing to the zeitgeist.
Its fancy Roastery brand is expanding — big time. Starbucks opened its first Roastery location in Seattle in 2014, a high-end coffee bar where the company’s pricey “Reserve” beans are roasted on-site and brewed via various methods such as pourover and Chemex, and a cup can cost as much as $12. Founder and figurehead Howard Schultz stepped down from his post as CEO to lead the company’s high-end coffee efforts, and 2018 is slated to be a big year for the Roastery: It just opened its biggest location yet in Shanghai, featuring augmented reality technology and the world’s longest coffee bar, and will open Roasteries in Tokyo, New York, and Milan this year.
Brace for more wacky novelty Frappuccinos. Starbucks found major success this year with hokey, limited-time-only drinks like the Unicorn Frappuccino, the Zombie Frappuccino, and the Christmas Tree Frappuccino. These saccharine-sweet, technicolor concoctions may have been a nightmare for baristas, but the clearly-made-for-Instagram beverages generated a bevy of headlines and drove traffic to stores — so expect to see plenty more weird new creations in 2018.
It’s betting big on China. Starbucks announced back in 2016 that it planned to open 2,500 more locations in China over the next five years; a new store is currently opening every day. Schultz has stated that China will ultimately overtake the U.S. as its biggest market, and it’s not hard to see why: Thanks to a rapidly growing middle and upper class, its per-capita coffee consumption is projected to rise 18 percent each year for the next several years.
It’s boldly taking on Italy. Its first location, a fancy and expansive Roastery outpost, will hit Milan in 2018. Home to one of the world’s most cherished coffee cultures, it’s no small feat for Starbucks to sling coffee in Italy, and the world will be watching to see how the coffee giant is received there. Though many have speculated that Italians will snub Starbucks, Schultz has promised the company is approaching the country “with great humility and respect.” If successful, it could be a boon for Starbucks’ European footprint.
It’s diversifying — with artisan bread. In 2016 Starbucks announced it was investing in Princi, a fancy artisan bakery chain from Italy, to bring fresh-baked-in-house bread and pastries (plus sandwiches and other lunch fare) to select Roastery and Reserve locations. The first outpost opened in November 2017 inside the flagship Seattle Roastery while the second debuted in December within the massive Shanghai Roastery. Starbucks is also acting as the exclusive global licensee for Princi, and in 2018 it will begin opening more standalone Princi stores across the globe. Though it’s not the first time Starbucks has invested in a bakery — in 2012 it bought SF-based La Boulange, a failed venture it abandoned a couple years later — this one seems somewhat more promising in light of the company’s current focus on higher-end offerings.
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