Starbucks is known for having high-quality coffee, but the giant wants to be known for having high-quality food as well.
That’s the thinking behind its latest venture, an unspecified investment in the artisan Milan bakery Princi in exchange for Princi’s exclusive partnership with high-end Starbucks outposts. The goal, as CEO Howard Schultz explained, is rather simple: “This is an opportunity for us to elevate food. This will once again reaffirm Starbucks’ leadership in all things coffee.”
The Princi baked goods will be served at Starbucks Roastery locations. The first Roastery location was opened two years ago in Seattle as a higher-end Starbucks option. For Starbucks, the Roasteries will be an opportunity to showcase its highest-quality offerings. Providing Princi’s baked goods in these Roasteries will ensure that the quality of the food matches the quality of the coffee.
For its part, Princi will be able to use Starbucks’ worldwide network to open new shops around the globe. It currently has five locations in Milan and London, serving artisanal food made from scratch with family recipes. Starbucks chose the brand because of Shultz’s long-term appreciation for Italian coffee culture; the Seattle-based brewery is set to open a store in Italy for the first time next year.
Starbucks has previously tried to fix the problem of its much-maligned food. In 2012, it bought a bakery chain, La Boulange, for $100 million, but the investment quickly went downhill. Within the next few years, Starbucks closed every single La Boulange store, and now the bakery has been recast as an in-house Starbucks brand, offering pastries and sandwiches that leave room for improvement.
The implementation of Princi’s food in its stores is only the latest tweak in Starbucks’ quest for a perception higher quality. Starbucks is already more expensive than other coffee stops like Dunkin’ Donuts, and it recently announced another round of price increases. With the creation of the Roastery stores (Schultz has hinted that there could be many more in the future) and the introduction of Princi, Starbucks’s journey towards becoming a higher quality (and more expensive) option is well underway.