“I wrote the brief for the Roastery nine or nine-and-a-half years ago, with one line that said – we need to build the Willy Wonka of coffee.” Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO and Founder

Change is good. In the business world, that adage can be taken a step further. Change is necessary. Companies recognize that their success depends on their ability to evolve and adapt to new market conditions effectively and to anticipate trends based on concrete analysis of consumer behaviour.

Branding is, arguably, one of those most important aspects of a business. Not only does the design of a brand let consumers know what to expect, but it shapes how people perceive, experience, and interact with your brand. In our Brand Evolution series, we examine how global brands have evolved to stay ahead of the curve to become powerhouses in their respective industries. First, we take a look at how Starbucks successfully increased brand value, as well as market value, among consumers through their brand evolution.

There was a time when Starbucks stores saturated the streets to the point where stores started competing with each other; stagnating company growth and cannibalizing sales. So, how did Starbucks plan on reversing these stagnant sales? One of the solutions, with Schulz’s brief in mind, Starbucks set out to realize a vision that would combine a high-end cafe, a working industrial plant displaying how raw beans are processed and packaged, cafe, and a small store. Ultimately, the Starbucks Roastery would provide customers with an immersive retail experience with equal parts theatre, production facility, and sensual café. 

Designed as a long-lead project, these massive Roasteries will not be popping up on every corner like their original counterparts but, instead, will appear in carefully selected neighbourhoods worldwide. The first one opened in 2014 in its home market, Seattle, followed by locations in Shanghai, Milan, Chicago and Tokyo. The company has plans to open as many as 20-30 worldwide – each with its own identity, reflective of the neighbourhood chosen.

New York Starbucks Roastery

In December 2018, New York welcomed its first Roastery. Located in the hip Meatpacking District between Chelsea Market and Google’s New York offices, this 23,000 square foot Roastery delivers something pretty darn close to Mr. Schulz’s Willy Wonka vision. An impressive customer experience of all things coffee, patrons are encouraged to engage with baristas, roasters and mixologists to gain a better understanding of the art and science of coffee.  

The NY location also features a custom-commission of a 10 foot, 2,000 pound copper two tailed siren by Brooklyn’s Max Steiner.  And in homage to the meatpacking history of the area, bags of raw coffee beans make their way to the floor from the cellar via hooks on a conveyor belt, suspended from the ceiling, like meat was once moved through a butcher. 

Tokyo Starbucks Roastery

The Tokyo Roastery, in turn, has hand crafted ‘folded’ wooden ceilings that pay tribute to the art of Origami and an expansive second floor dedicated to tea and Japanese traditions related to tea.

Shanghai Starbucks Roastery

As part of their continued investment in China, Starbucks pulled out all the stops in creating the Shanghai Roastery. Located on the city’s biggest shopping thoroughfare and surrounded by luxury shops, this roastery features a two-story bronze cask at the center of the store as well as an augmented reality experience created by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and, like Tokyo’s, features a section dedicated to tea. 

All of the locations offer customers a mind blowing look at coffee technology. Perhaps borrowing from craft brewery culture, these grand spaces proudly display magnificent copper casks, silos, and rolling assembly lines in addition to the expected cafes and coffee bars. All of them also feature Starbucks-backed, Princi bakeries which prepare and sell artisanal baked goods.

Whether or not these expensive ventures prove profitable is yet to be seen. What is certain is that Starbucks has successfully injected excitement into its brand. These coffee roasteries offer an elevated experience that includes numerous coffee stations, Rocco Princi’s pizza and pastries, plus swanky bars serving coffee blended with liquor (think Black & White Manhattan, combining coffee, bourbon and vermouth). All, a very far cry from the cramped, utilitarian Starbucks on your nearest street corner. With each new Roastery opening, Starbucks takes coffee innovation to new heights to showcase that they clearly are the Willy Wonka of the coffee industry and don’t plan on giving up that title any time soon.

Stay tuned for the next article in our Brand Evolution series and subscribe to be part of the LIV Design Newsletter here.

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