How Starbucks can challenge Italian coffee

To attract more customers, the American chain need to serve a real Espresso

How Starbucks can challenge Italian coffee

Claudia Astarita


While the American chain is about to land in Italy, people are wondering whether Frappuccino & co. will attract Italian costumers or not. As highlighted by Time magazine, although the coffee chain was inspired by Italy, Starbucks' style is at odds with Italian traditions.

Italians tend to have their coffee in the morning, before going to work. But bar's busiest time is definitely from 1:30 to 2:50 p.m., that is right after lunch, when lots of costumers get their coffee before going back to their desk.

Italian coffee culture is not only about time. If it is true that "Italians simply drink their coffee differently from the rest of the world", how is Starbucks' Americanized experience of drinking coffee going to affect national habits?

"In Italy, a cup of coffee is not something to be lingered over. It's something close to a cigarette break - a ten-minute pause in the middle of the workday". People do not sit to drink their coffee. They just get it while standing up, most likely in a hurry. Actually, the only people that sit in a bar for coffee are tourists. And they seldom go for a "real" black short coffee. It's just too strong, so better to have a cappuccino, even after lunch, which is something an Italian will never do. On the contrary, "for Italians, lattes and cappuccinos are drunk in the morning and occasionally as part of a mid-afternoon snack; never after lunch or dinner".

This does not mean that people are against Starbucks. "For many in Italy, the coffee chain's image is of something international, something cool", so younger generation might go there not for coffee, but just for gathering with friends. But what if Starbucks understands that Italians are not keen to change their way of drinking coffee and, in order to attract more customers, will start serving "real" espresso? This is another option, and for sure the most challenging one for local bars and cafés.

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