Starbucks Corporation had a homecoming of sorts last month.
After more than 30 years of global expansion and domination
, the coffee giant opened its first store in Italy, the birthplace of espresso, and the country that inspired former CEO Howard Schultz to grow the company from a sleepy local roastery to the ubiquitous chain of cafes it is today.
Starbucks' opening location in Milan isn't just an ordinary store. The company cut the ribbon on its third Roastery in the world, revealing the latest iteration of what Schultz has called "the Willy Wonka of coffee."
Like the roasteries already open in Seattle and Shanghai, the Milan roastery showcases every step of the roasting process, showing off the "theater of coffee" that has always appealed to Schultz.
The Milan location also has special features like a one-of-a-kind 22-foot bronze roasting cask, a unique bar on the mezzanine with more than 100 cocktails on the menu, homemade gelato made with liquid nitrogen, and Princi baked goods.
And aficionados showed up for the fanfare, as the roastery drew capacity crowds at its opening with about 200 people lined up around the block, waiting to enter the store that Friday.
Starbucks' entry into Italy may be the brand's biggest test yet, especially at a time when growth has slowed in many of its markets around the world.
After all, cafes are ubiquitous in Italy -- the country has about 57,000 of them, one for every 1,000 people -- and Starbucks is also charging nearly double the prices of its independent competitors.
Prior to the Milan opening, various news outlets reported that Italians were skeptical of the coffee chain's entry.
The Local Italy, an English-language news site based in Italy, said readers widely panned the decision, with 87% of survey respondents saying they were against the new Starbucks.
意大利的英语新闻网站《The Local Italy》称读者都不赞成这一决定，87%的受访者称他们讨厌这家新开的星巴克。
One reader compared it to opening a Taco Bell in Mexico.
Conde Nast Traveler found Italians similarly puzzled by Starbucks' entry, insisting that espresso anywhere else in the country would be better and that the practice of taking five to 10 minutes to drink an espresso standing at a cafe bar was a sacred ritual in the culture.
Then there's the question of pricing. Starbucks will charge 1.80 euros for an espresso, nearly double the single euro that Italians pay at their local bars. Starbucks believes the price reflects the premium experience the roastery offers, but many Italians balked at the higher price.