World’s Biggest Starbucks Shanghai Roastery is a ‘Coffee Wonderland’


Starbucks China Shanghai Reserve Roastery opening

China can now lay claim to the biggest Starbucks location in the world. The Shanghai Roastery, Starbuck’s premium coffee and retail hub, will open its doors on December 6th, welcoming the public to a spectacular 30,000-square-foot space, the first of its kind in Asia.

In addition to three wooden coffee bars (one, at 88 feet, the longest in any Starbucks) handcrafted by local artisans and where baristas demonstrate a variety of coffee-making techniques, the fully immersive “coffee wonderland” also boasts a 3D-printed Teavana tea bar, a Princi bakery with edible treats and an integrated online and off-line digital augmented reality experience on tap to whet appetites as visitors explore the space. You can even order coffee-enhanced beer.

With 28 million residents of Shanghai and 600 million middle class Chinese consumers clamoring for Western experiences, Starbucks is ready for a spectacular growth trajectory in China, where it already operates more than 3,000 stores (600 in Shanghai alone) across 136 cities and employs almost 50,000 employees. A new Starbucks store opens somewhere in China every 15 hours, making it the chain’s fastest-growing market.

Twice the size of the original Seattle Roastery, opening the Shanghai Roastery marks “a turning point for the corporation” Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz, who oversees the brand’s international growth including the vital market of China for the company where he was formerly CEO, told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin on a tour this week.

The in-store augmented reality experience lets visitors download the Roastery’s app to scan various locations in the Roastery, including Starbucks’ longest coffee bar in the world, a two-story copper coffee roasting cask covered with 1,000 hand-carved traditional Chinese chops, or stamps, that tell the story of Starbucks, and there’s a 3-D printed tea bar.

“It’s like Alice in Wonderland meets Willy Wonka,” stated Emily Chang, SVP/CMO Starbucks China. “It’s one thing to imagine a fully integrated in-store and digital experience, which brings together the impressive scale of the Shanghai Roastery with the highest quality small-lot coffee beans. It’s quite another to watch the AR experience get built, and come to life.”

“We wanted to create a completely new brand experience for our customers. Because you know, coffee is already such a deeply sensorial experience, even before the first sip: from hearing the unmistakable sound of beans being freshly ground, to inhaling that rich aroma and sipping your perfect blend, brewed just right. We wanted to take that customer experience even further.”

Starbucks Shanghai China Roastery augmented reality AR

Visitors who don’t download the Roastery app or access it on Alibaba’s Taobao app can scan QR codes embedded around the Roastery for a similar experience. Alibaba’s scene-recognition software powers the AR experience, letting customers order from anywhere in the store. Along the way, they can collect virtual badges to earn a custom Roastery social media filter to share.

“It’s coffee as theater,” added Echo Jiang, director of customer experience at the Roastery. “We didn’t want people to have to queue. We wanted to enable them to order wherever they want.”

Roaming baristas on the floor can help customers create and place an order; they can pay on the spot and be digitally notified when their order is ready, along with the location where they can pick it up. “With AR, we are able to go beyond educating, enabling and engaging, to empowering our customers to experience the space on their own terms,” said Chang.

“Customers can extend the experience even after leaving the store,” said Jiang. “They can bring the Starbucks Roastery home with them, to continue enjoying and even share the experience with others.”

Starbucks Shanghai China Roastery

Visitors can buy curated tours of the building, book a coffee tasting journey via the online Starbucks Roastery store, available on Alibaba’s Tmall platform, purchase a special tasting menu online, buy Roastery merchandise or whole beans to be delivered directly to their homes. More than 80 items are baked fresh onsite daily at the Princi bakery, the exclusive food pairing partner at Starbucks Roasteries.

Additionally, the company announced another milestone in its commitment to China: contributing meaningful and enduring social impact through poverty alleviation by creating opportunities for groups facing barriers, strengthening partner-driven and locally relevant community engagement, and improving lives of Yunnan coffee farmers and their families.

Starbucks China coffee roastery Shanghai world's biggest

The Starbucks Foundation and Starbucks China plan to make charitable donations totaling approximately $20 million USD (RMB 132 million) over the next five years to drive social impact in communities across China.

“We firmly believe it is our role and responsibility to use our scale to give back to the communities as we continue to grow in China, and with the people of China,” said Belinda Wong, CEO of Starbucks China. “Our commitment, together with our Roastery opening, epitomizes how Starbucks is doubling-down on the unprecedented opportunities we see in the future for Starbucks and China.”

Looking to the future, Schultz also told CNBC’s Sorkin that the U.S.-based coffee chain could become a “cashless retailer.”

“That time is nearer than you think,” said Schultz at the opening of the Roastery in Shanghai, adding that technology will not replace the brand’s “humanity” in dealing with customers. “We’re a people company. I don’t see a day where artificial intelligence or robotics is going to replace the humanity of Starbucks. The equity of the brand is based on that intimacy between our customers and our people. That’s why we invest so much in our people.”

Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai will be sure to astound locals when it opens—it’s the equivalent of 40 average Manhattan apartments (and who knows how many Shanghai apartments). It offers unique beverage menu items not found at any other Starbucks in China, including more than 100 beverages such as Teavana tea infused with nitrogen and brewed with Steampunk that uses steam to extract unique flavors from each tea leaf. It has a key design feature that includes a ceiling consisting of 10,000 handmade wooden hexagon-shaped tiles inspired by the locking of an espresso shot on an espresso machine.

But most importantly, perhaps, it’s serving hope to Chinese customers that they are the future, and they deserve the best a global brand like Starbucks has to offer. Additional Roastery locations, meanwhile, are slated to open in Milan and New York in 2018, and Tokyo and Chicago in 2019.