Starbucks is about to open its biggest Roastery in the world in Tokyo. Roasteries — large, lavish Starbucks stores that feature specialty coffees and teas, on-premise roasters and massive coffee casks where freshly roasted beans are held — are a way to “celebrate the romance of coffee,” CEO Kevin Johnson.
The 32,000-square-foot Tokyo Roastery will open to the public on Thursday morning. It overtakes the one in Shanghai as the biggest Starbucks on the planet. The company has just three others, in Seattle, Milan and New York City. After Tokyo, Starbucks plans to open one more Roastery, in Chicago.
In Tokyo, customers who visit the Roastery will be able to order elaborate drinks like black tea lattes garnished with turmeric cotton candy and jasmine teas topped with popsicles. They’ll be able to gaze at cherry blossoms through glass walls, and sip beverages on an outdoor terrace.
It’s the first Roastery to be designed from start to finish with a local designer, architect Kengo Kuma, and the first Starbucks location with a dedicated “inspiration lounge” to host events. It’s home to the world’s largest Teavana Tea Bar.
But the Tokyo location also shares many elements with its four predecessor locations, like the cask — though at over 55-feet tall, Tokyo’s is biggest. It also shares distinctive design features like a split-flap sign, called a clacker board, which displays the coffee being roasted in the roasters. Like every Roastery, the Tokyo location has series of overhead pipes that shoots beans throughout the building, sells customized merchandise and incorporates Princi bakeries into the stores.
From the beginning, the Roasteries were designed to have a theatrical air. Customers are invited to explore the space, try new concoctions and learn about Starbucks’ coffee supply chain. The more each Roastery has to offer, the more likely it is that customers will visit, spend and stay.
In addition to offering a premium experience, the Roastery also serves as an innovation lab, Johnson said. Starbucks has rolled out new beverages nationwide after testing them out at Roasteries.
The Roasteries are also where Starbucks tests out design elements it adopts not only in other Roastery locations, but at Starbucks’ Reserve Bars — high-end coffee bars that aren’t as elaborate as the Roasteries, but serve premium-blend coffee and are fancier than your corner Starbucks location. Starbucks has over 200 Reserve bars worldwide, most of them in Asia.
The Roasteries have also served as inspiration for new Starbucks concepts, like the “coffee sanctuary” that opened in Bali in January. That store has a 1,000-square-foot coffee farm out front and a nursery where customers can plant seeds. Customers at the store, called the Starbucks Dewata Coffee Sanctuary, can take coffee tasting and preparation classes and virtually participate in the planting process through an interactive digital wall
Yet, most importantly, without mentioning words such as ‘upscale’, ‘premium’ or even ‘luxury’, Starbucks is actually upgrading its positioning. Beyond financial feasibility, Roasteries and foremost important acting as a showroom or a display, silently but very aggressively moving to wipe out Nespresso’s dominance in two key segments – luxury hotels and high-end corporate.
Starbucks bottled coffee is already widely available in the mini-bars of several international luxury hotel chain, but the lobby is the real opportunity, targeting all guests visiting the hotel, whether they actually stay at the hotel or attend an event & experience the gym (the largest upscale gym in Singapore).
Last year, Nespresso opened what seemed to be a test or rather an experiment – a coffee station branded Nespresso with a bespoke design concept that looks and feels upscale, right in the lobby of the newly opened luxury Sofitel City Centre in Singapore, a predominantly corporate hotel in the CBD with direct access to the MRT (Metro) part of hotel giant Accor, which also owns other luxury hotel brands such as Sofitel, Fairmont and Raffles.
Any guest or visitor at the hotel can pick up a coffee and enjoy in on the go or in the lobby of the hotel. Fresh coffee is also delivered to the rooms with the help of a humanoid robot, hence, no need for Starbucks to create any in-room machines.
And the next obvious step is for Starbucks to take over as the coffee provider of events / meetings / conferences. For hotel chains like Raffles or St Regis, all suites are serviced by a designated Butler, hence another opportunity to deliver the perfect luxury coffee experience in one’s suite. There are also Business / Executive Lounges where Roastery style corners or spaces can be re-created – similarly at First Class airline lounges.
Finally, Nespresso experimented (but abandoned) a few years ago with small ‘luxury stations’ set up at the fashion show during Milan Fashion Week.
adapted from Bloomberg, CNN and additional contribution by CPP editorial staff
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