In 2018, Starbucks opened its first store in Italy, a 25,000-square-foot roastery in Milan. Despite being inspired by Italian coffeehouse culture, the American chain faced resistance when entering the country.
It took Starbucks 47 years to open a shop in Italy. Italians take their coffee culture very seriously — it’s filled with traditions, customs and rituals. It’s common to order an espresso, quickly drink it at the counter while chatting with your barista, and leave — contrary to Starbucks shops, where customers may sit for a while to work on their laptops.
When Starbucks announced its formal plans to open in Milan, some local residents disapproved and a few protesters set fire to a cluster of the palm trees Starbucks had planted in the Piazza del Duomo.
“Our intention for this project has always been to demonstrate our respect and gratitude to the city of Milan, which has so greatly inspired Starbucks over the years,” the company said in a statement.
To ensure a smooth transition into uncharted territory, the company partnered with an Italian brand manager and other local businesses.
Despite the challenges, Starbucks has beaten the odds in Italy and is even planning to expand.
“I immensely enjoyed the coffee I had there … it tasted precisely like an Italian coffee should, and I would say a good Italian coffee,” said Eva Del Soldato, an associate professor of Italian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
Watch the video to learn more about how Starbucks is adapting to Italian culture.