Starbucks reserved for Milan

On 6 September, Starbucks visionary and Chairman Emeritus Howard Schultz watched his Italian dream come alive. He graced the large staircase of the historic former post office in Palazzo delle Poste on the fashionable Piazza Cordusio in Milan, Italy, and gazed over the hundreds of dignitaries and supporters as he welcomed them to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milan, the first Starbucks in Italy, and the third Starbucks Reserve Roastery in the world after Seattle and Shanghai. “I came here as a young man in 1983. I was walking the streets of Milano and fell in love with the people and the city,” Schultz announced in his opening address. “Italian coffee bars just captured my imagination: the sense of community, the passion for coffee, and human connection. I raced back to America with not much money, no resources, a great wife named Sheri who wanted to support me and my youthful, entrepreneurial dream, an American dream.” Schultz, then 30, had joined Starbucks the year before, when the company had just four stores and only sold whole-bean coffee to brew at home. He returned to Seattle with a vision of bringing the Italian coffee culture to the United States. After leaving Starbucks for a short time to start his own II Giornale coffeehouses, Schultz purchased six Starbucks stores and roasting facilities in 1987 with the help of local investors and the goal of someday having 100 stores across the country. In the beginning, Schultz faced a lot of rejection, with many doubting Americans would pay US$2 to $3 a cup for an Italian menu item they couldn’t pronounce – but they did. One hundred stores have now become more than 28,000 stores in over 76 countries with employment for more than 360,000 staff worldwide. “We had this dream to try to create a company that would try and achieve the fragile balance between profit and conscience,” Schultz said. “The need to understand the role and responsibility of a company is much greater than ever before in terms of its responsibility to its employees and the communities it serves. “The company that you have heard of, read about, and visited stands for more than just coffee, and that is we have tried over the years to build a different kind of company – not better than anyone else, just different, a company that would share its success with its people and be steeped in humanity,” Schultz told the crowd. To Schultz, however, there was always one missing link in the community it served — Italy. He finally made the decision a number of years ago to bring Starbucks to Italy. Schultz snuck into Milan on many occasions looking for the right real estate and become frustrated when he couldn’t find the perfect shop. In what sounds more like a spiritual sign, Schultz inspected the building of an old city bank and when he turned around his eyes locked with an extraordinary government building staring back at him. That was the one. Designers worked tirelessly to turn the space into an “intricate masterpiece of Italian craftsmanship and coffee innovation” which features a round roastery theatre, woodfire oven, terrace, marble countertops, handcrafted mosaic marble floor in traditional Palladian style, and a geometric ceiling designed and engineered digitally. Starbucks Reserve Roastery Milan is no ordinary store. The entrance wall of the roastery features a floor-to-ceiling with an engraved brass story of Starbucks. Guests can view the wall as it is or, with the help of their mobile device, can experience it in augmented reality, giving them access to multimedia artefacts about the company’s history. A thunder and lightning show hampered the outdoor celebrations from renowned Milanese opera house La Scala on opening night, but Schultz wasn’t fazed – he’s accustomed to the rainy climate in Seattle. Instead, an operatic performance from The Barber of Seville on the Roastery staircase set the scene for a ceremonious night. The evening was also a chance for supporters to see the culmination of Italian coffee culture and the art and science of Starbucks coffee, and a chance for Schultz to reinstate the purpose of the venue, which some people had said it should not or could not succeed in Italy. “We have not come to Italy to teach the Italians anything about coffee. We have come here with humility, with respect, trying to convey to the Italian people, the Milanese people, our interpretation of coffee,” Schultz said. That vision is a Willy Wonka-inspired instillation that takes its customers on a magical carpet ride and surprises and delights them every day with people by doing business in a different way. It’s Schultz’s hope that this Milan Starbucks is the beginning of more Starbucks in Italy. According to GlobalData, a data and analytics company, the Italian coffee and tea shop market was worth approximately €44.8 billion in 2017, making it more valuable than the country’s quick service restaurant and full service restaurant channels combined, and it is expected to keep growing by 1.9 per cent over the next five years. A key part of accelerating that growth is the Starbucks partnership with Princi bakery and the leadership of Giampaolo Grossi, General Manager of the Reserve Roastery Milan. Starbucks hired Grossi, the son of a Florentine banker, to manage the new Milan Roastery in 2017, before which he’d managed a number of upscale bars and restaurants in New York, Milan, and Kuwait. Most recently, Grossi was general manager of the Prada-owned Pasticceria Marchesi, one of Milan’s oldest and finest pastry shops. In a Starbucks press statement, Grossi says his attention to detail and comfort with discipline and training, is what he says prepared him for his biggest challenge yet – supporting hundreds of employees who consist of baristas, bakers, mixologists, and coffee roasters from all corners of Italy – Milano, Palermo, Sicily, Verona, Pisa – and all parts of the world. The day before the grand opening, Schultz spoke to students at Bocconi University in Milan for more than an hour, sharing stories from his life and career and lessons for building a successful entrepreneurial mindset. In his speech he told the students he was humbled to be opening in Italy and left them inspired to dream big, as he once did. “If I took you to where I grew up in public housing, in a place that’s very, very far away from here, and we took a picture of that place, and you asked the question, ‘What are the odds of getting from there to here?’ – the odds seem insurmountable, but it can happen,” Schultz told the students. “I’m living proof it can happen.” Schultz asked the auditorium of students if they knew the first Starbucks was opening its store in Milan, and nearly all raised their hands. “Seriously, when you do visit the Roastery, I don’t think there’s a retail store in the world … that has created the atmosphere and expression in terms of the experience and what you will see and feel,” he said.

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