Starbucks struck out with La Boulange as well as Teavana. Has it learned something from these two disappointing expansions/integrations that will help its Princi play?
— Kristen Hawley
Starbucks is getting into the food business, according to its chairman, Howard Schultz. Though it’s served food in some capacity in its stores for years, the coffee chain has debuted its first restaurant in Seattle, located within a Starbucks Reserve.
According to the Washington Post, Starbucks has teamed up with Milan-based Princi, a small bakery chain, and will offer dishes like focaccia sandwiches and pizza within is Starbucks Reserve locations. Expect standalone concepts to come next year in New York, Chicago, and Starbucks’ hometown of Seattle. Last year, Starbucks invested in Princi and became its global licensee.
Part of the allure of an italian bakery is in the way the food is consumed. Sure, good food is good food, but one would assume part of the allure of Princi’s current European locations goes beyond the recipes. Restaurateur Danny Meyer, who knows more than a few things about running successful restaurants, recently opened Caffe Marchio in new York, “an homage to the Roman tradition of delicious coffee in an energetic and convivial environment.” Beyond just the food and the coffee, the cafe attempts to invoke the same spirit you’d find in Rome.
So can Starbucks replicate the success of Princi in the U.S.? It won’t be the first time it’s tried. In 2012, Starbucks acquired the much-loved San Francisco-based La Boulange, a chain of 19 French bakeries. At the time, Starbucks planned to operate the existing locations and expand to 400 nationwide.
Instead, in 2015, it shuttered the original locations, offering some branded pastries in its stores, but largely cutting out the brand itself, not to mention their physical locations that served as neighborhood gathering places. Given this history, Starbucks doesn’t have a great track record of scaling authenticity — but if the food stands on its own and the company works hard to translate the experience as it currently exists, it could have a shot at restaurant success.
This post originally appeared in the November 8, 2017 Skift Table newsletter. Subscribe to get the latest in your inbox.