Why is Starbucks so popular

Despite success in the USA : Why Starbucks is not arriving in Europe

There's this one block downtown that has Starbucks on every corner. You can look from one to the other - and wave to those standing in line: All four restaurants are overcrowded at peak times.

There's a scene at the Simpsons where Bart is walking down a street. Every second business it passes through is a Starbucks. When he stops in a small shop to have himself pierced, the owner says: “Let's hurry up, boy! Starbucks will move in here in five minutes! ”In Seattle, the largest city in the US state of Washington, this satire no longer seems far from reality.

In fact, nowhere else on earth are there more Starbucks cafes per inhabitant. New York has fewer branches in absolute terms. Here in Seattle, on the traditional Pike Place opposite the fish market, is the oldest Starbucks store ever. Long-time city residents say she was actually a few meters further to the left, but no one seems to care. Nevertheless, tourists accept long waiting times to drink an iced latte in the "original Starbucks" once in a lifetime.

Starbucks likes you, Starbucks of course

In 1971, college friends Gerald Baldwin, Gordon Bowker and Zev Siegl opened the "Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice" store in the port of Seattle. Starbuck is the name of the helmsman in Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick. A bold, sober and rational sailor. Apparently a well-chosen patron - within 30 years he has directed the company to the top. 23,000 branches in 70 countries, 300,000 employees: this is no longer a trend. The chain has changed global coffee culture. The coffeeshop model, coffee to take away in oversized cups and numerous variations, has often been copied internationally.

Sometimes bold, like from the small Thai street vendor Starbung, sometimes more subtle like from the Hamburg label Balzac, which transported the concept to Germany in 1998. One would like to believe: others can do it better, the Italians, others know more about coffee house culture, the Viennese. But maybe Starbucks’s secret is precisely this: the baristas never know better what the perfect coffee should look like. Soy or almond milk? A dash of vanilla flavor with it? Gladly. Starbucks likes and understands you. In many cases, anyone heading for one of the branches with the familiar mermaid logo in Seattle only has to pick up the mug from the counter.

Customers order their morning coffee from the bus using their smartphone - and save themselves the queuing. The "Mobile Order & Pay" app, with which drinks can be ordered in advance from the branch, is already used by ten million coffee fans in the USA.

It doesn't work in Europe

The American morning, it no longer belongs to Kellog's, but to Starbucks. And company boss Howard Schultz also wants the evening after work: In Seattle, the green-skirted employees are now also serving alcohol. Most recently, Starbucks reported sales of more than 13 billion euros for 2013. A great success story - which has a coffee, no beauty stain: Europe. Not only that the company has to pay a fine of 20 to 30 million euros for its tax avoidance tactics after a decision by the EU Commission. Customers and coffee are not yet flowing in the hoped-for quantities.

It is true that Starbucks is also increasing its sales in Europe every year. Starbucks made 135 million euros in Germany in 2014. But when the chain came to Germany in 2002, it announced that it would set up “at least 180 branches” in the following years - 13 years later this number has not been reached. There are currently 159, and the company has not only closed a branch in Berlin-Zehlendorf. They wanted to concentrate more on the locations where the customers are, it said - the inner cities. Last but not least, the reason is that the tourists are there, while the enthusiasm of the locals is waning.

But why is the idea not so popular in Europe as it is in the USA? Maybe because there have long been too many alternatives. Especially in Berlin, where hundreds of individual cafés beckon. Maybe because in Berlin hardly anyone wants to pay four euros for a cappuccino that every bakery offers cheaper. Maybe because more and more people are turning away from the big American corporations. Anyone who buys at Starbucks in Seattle supports a company from the region. Those who ignore Starbucks in Berlin may be consciously boycotting a globally operating - tax-evaded - corporation.

Cooperation with Rewe in Germany

McDonalds is fighting, and Dunkin ’Donuts is also falling far short of the targets. Quality instead of quantity is the motto. In any case, it is better to meet friends in the charming little espresso bar. In the US, a recent study found that Starbucks is the preferred place for a first date. Nevertheless, the company is undergoing an image change there. With the "Roastery" roastery - it installed a kind of flagship store in Seattle in December 2014 in the hip district of Capitol Hill. An atmospheric mix of industrial chic and noble restaurant, in which exclusive types of coffee are tasted. Customers can still follow the roasting process from the toilet washroom.

The message is clear: craftsmanship, care, quality. And otherwise Starbucks is working with all its might to be counted among the good guys. With green electricity, development aid projects or the support of local schools. The chain is so much perceived as a political actor in its home country that the proposal that CEO Howard Schultz should run for president was hardly surprising. Schultz canceled - he prefers to concentrate on business. And is making a new attempt in Europe. By cooperating with chains in France (Monoprix, Casino) and Germany (Rewe), he initially wants to conquer the supermarkets in which Starbucks has long been omnipresent in the USA.

In Great Britain, millions of euros were acquired in order to accelerate the pace of expansion. And now Starbucks is even venturing into what is probably the toughest coffee market: Italy. “Ten reasons why Starbucks has no business in Italy” was the headline of a German newspaper. The step is self-confident, there is no question about that. And that's exactly what it is supposed to signal. "We are still at an early stage of growth in Europe," said when asked. And yes, even in Seattle they want to expand further. Bart Simpsons, hurry up.

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