Not all Starbucks are created equal. In design, in service, and in production, Starbucks experiences can range from relaxing to maddening. And with a global expansion well underway (more than 16,000 locations worldwide), this is truer than ever. Expanding into foreign markets like Italy, France, and China, who all have their own (non-American) connections to coffee, means becoming sensitive to a country’s wants and needs, while staying true to the brand’s identity.
Tea-loving countries like China, in particular, pose a challenge to the coffee giant that, frankly, has been unable to tackle tea in a real or competitive way. As a result, Starbucks has begun to slowly roll out drinks, like the green tea Frappuccino in China and the honey orange mocha in the Philippines, that have local flavors and taste profiles in mind. They hold, though, that their goal in countries like China is to encourage coffee consumption. And as the company positions itself to open in India (they’d tried before in 2006 with no luck), it will be interesting to see what concessions will garner success in markets like Mumbai or New Delhi.
Their food options, too, have allowed some room for exotic flavors and combinations that aren’t available stateside. Yes, brownies, oatmeal, and standard muffins are sold everywhere from Singapore to Germany to California, but consider the falafel mezze plate in the Middle East, classic Canadian butter tarts, chunky beef pies in Australia, and corn and ham empanadas in Peru as olive branches. A way for Starbucks’ globalization to, essentially, work.
And so, where some Starbucks are in malls and hospitals, others are housed in historic buildings with stunning architecture. Where some have patios with fountains and fire pits, others have newspaper racks and free WiFi. But ultimately the message is clear — people, regardless of their opinions on giant American corporations pushing giant American agendas on the world, love Starbucks. They love the icy, milky, frothy coffees that come out quicker and more sugar-laden than others. They love that you can sit somewhere eating a pressed panino or rich chocolate brownie, using the internet, with no pressure of a waitstaff trying to turn the table over. And we’d venture to say, people around the world love the few distinct forays into local flavors found at their neighborhood Starbucks. Classic Canadian butter tarts, chunky Aussie beef pies, and a falafel mezze box in the Middle East go a long way.