Starbucks Set to Rock Italy's Cafe Culture

Yet Starbucks has already ventured into Switzerland, where its three-storied Zurich shop attracts customers in one of 50 outlets planned for the alpine country.

In fact, the firm views Switzerland, traditionally a melting pot with its three national languages, as a great testing-ground that would allow many nationalities and ethnicities to sample its product. "The Swiss shop is our toe-in-the-water test for continental Europe because of the multi-cultural nature of the city," said the Starbucks Europe spokeswoman.

Pushing an International Brand

American coffee, à la Starbucks and other imitators, has been criticized for being weak and commercialized. But the company insists it has been welcomed with open arms on the Continent. And surprisingly, some European competitors grudgingly credit Starbucks with opening the doors to Europe's espresso bar market.

"The Europeans, in particular, are quite pleasantly surprised when they taste Starbucks for the first time," Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz told the press recently, "because American coffee has had a bad reputation for so long."

The company maintains that it is taking into account the local influences of the new Starbucks countries. Though the company owns almost all of its stores in the States, Starbucks finds local business partners in most foreign markets. And while it doesn't change its coffee offerings, the food choices are adapted to local cultures.

"We don't believe we are an American company, but an international brand," Howard Behar, president of Starbucks Coffee International recent told the BBC. In Britain, Starbucks hopes to draw from the national pub culture to make Starbucks yet another meeting place, he added.

But Starbucks' challenge will not only be its ability to open and maintain branches world-wide, but to overturn decades, if not centuries, of tradition.

Coffee is already currently the second largest traded commodity in the world, just after oil. With Starbucks pushing into newer territories faster than it can come up with new coffee variations, this trend looks set to continue.

Contributing to this report was ABCNEWS' Tony Eufinger in London.

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