Starbucks describes its newly opened Milan Roastery as its “most beautiful store in the world”.
“During my first trip to Milan in 1983, I was captivated by the sense of community I found in the city’s espresso bars – the moments of human connection that passed so freely and genuinely between baristas and their customers,” said Howard Schultz, chairman emeritus of Starbucks.
“The opening of the Milan Roastery is the story of Starbucks coming full circle.”
The “crown jewel of Starbucks global retail footprint” opened in a restored building on Milan’s Palazzo della Poste on the Piazza Cordusio, just a few streets away from iconic landmarks such as the Duomo di Milano, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Teatro alla Scala.
Standing at 2300sqm (25,000sqft), the Milan Roastery marks the first time the coffee giant has made its debut in a new country with the Roastery format. Just two others exist in the world: in Seattle, which opened in 2014, and in Shanghai, which debuted last year.
Customers entering the Milan Roastery are greeted by a stunning view that spans every aspect of the Roastery experience. Vibrant colours were chosen to reflect the Italian fashion and design community and over the course of the day, the space transforms from the light filtering through the glass ceiling.
At the heart of the building is a Scolari coffee roaster, manufactured just miles from the centre of Milan. To the right, customers will find the main bar, where classic espresso beverages mingle with innovative new flavours. The wood-fronted bar features fluting, which echoes a motif found in Italian architecture throughout history, and is topped with marble sourced from the world-famous quarries of Tuscany.
Upstairs on the mezzanine floor, customers can discover Arriviamo Bar – where mixologists are on hand to create specialty cocktails behind a 10m-long marble bar carved from a single block of Calacatta Macchia Vecchia. To the left, customers will see a Princi Bakery, complete with a wood-fired oven.
Liz Muller, chief design officer at Starbucks, says her team spent a whole year living and breathing the city of Milan, working closely with dozens of local artisans to bring the store to life. She says the company wanted to engage “each one of our customers’ senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and of course, taste”.
“From the palladiana flooring that was chiselled by hand to the bright green clackerboard made by Italian craftsman Solari, everything you see in the Roastery is intentional, offering moments of discovery and transparency.”
The historic setting and detailed design is complemented by an interactive augmented reality (AR) experience, encouraging customers to use their mobile device to learn more about Starbucks Reserve coffees, the roasting process and the company.
The centrepiece of the AR experience is a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall visual representation of Starbucks history and its coffee – engraved in brass by local craftsmen, burnished to an ombre finish and backlit to bring warmth to the story.
Outside on a terrace, customers can enjoy the full range of Roastery coffees, cocktails and cuisine in a distinctly European environment – that of a street-side cafe. Also adorning the Roastery’s portico is a striking statue of a siren – the symbol of Starbucks steeped in classical lore – completely hand-carved in Carrara marble by Tuscan sculptor Giovanni Balderi.
The Milan Roastery offers customers a 360-degree walk-around view of the entire roasting process, which starts with green coffee being poured out of burlap sacks, continues through the roaster and sweeping cooling trays, and finishes in a 6.5m-tall bronze cask, with a glimpse offered inside the degassing chamber.
From there, coffee beans flow overhead through copper pipes directly to silos at the coffee bars, where customers can enjoy a fresh cup of Reserve coffee, or to the in-house packaging line to be wrapped for distribution in Starbucks stores across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Following the opening of the Milan Roastery, Starbucks will bring additional cafes to Milan with licensed partner Percassi beginning late this year. Starbucks says these stores will reflect the unique coffee culture of the Italian market, while also offering Starbucks mainstream food and beverage offer.
Italy marks Starbucks’ 78th international market and comes 20 years after it opened its first European store in London.
This article first appeared in Inside Retail Asia, a sister site to Inside Franchise Business.