header i-Italy

Articles by: Alberto Baudo

  • Starbucks in Milan
    Op-Eds

    Starbucks Doesn’t Spell The Apocalypse!

    So Starbucks is opening in Italy. The magazine Gambero Rosso, one of the gatekeepers of fine dining and drinking in Italy, published a wonderfully written and well-researched article titled 10 Reasons Why Starbucks in Italy is a Catastrophe. 

    Despite the title, the article isn’t all negative; the magazine didn’t rush to defend our traditions.  On the contrary, it took aninterest in Seattle’sinvasion. But the questions pile up: Why hasn’t Starbucks opened store in Italy until now? Will it succeed? Will it hurt small businesses? Will it change Italians’ habits? Only time will tell, but we can make our modest predictions if we examine the hard data:

    ● Starbucks is the largest chain of coffee shops in the world, not in franchising but in terms of real estate.

    ● Starbucks wasn’tborn yesterday. It opened in 1971. It has 25,000 stores around the world.

    ● People like Starbucks.Its brand is trendy and it makes excellent coffee served in a comfortable space with free Wi-Fi designed to make you feel at home. Obviously there are plenty of old and highly regarded cafés in Italy. But they’re the exceptions that prove the rule.

    Objection #1: Starbucks coffee is nasty and Italian coffee is the best in the world. Actually Gambero Rosso recognizes that “Italy isn’t the number one consumer of coffee per capita, but in all likelihood it is the country where the drink plays the most crucial social, cultural and anthropological role. 

    Nevertheless, as has happened to many other excellent Italian commodities, coffee has been abused and degraded over the years, and is now a shadow of its former self.” Setting aside tastes for the moment, let’s try to understand how the Seattle coffee company achieved its global success.

    Starbucks has over 30 blends of coffee, ranging from the most famous blends to local selections to reserve roasts. Their website even has a feature that will recommend the best coffee or blend for you personally, depending on how you answer three specific questions

    How many cafes in Italy can say the same? And how many in Italy know that at Starbucks you can “design” your own espresso? Then there’s the part-hipster, part-metropolitan ambience that young people armed with iPhones are drawn to like bees to flowers; the free Wi-Fi; the courteous and competent staff that asks you what you’d like and writes your name on your personalized cup; the large, clean and totally livable spaces; the fact that you don’t need a key to go to the bathroom; the fact that there aren’t limits to how long you can stay; the fact that, on average, they’re better than we are at making coffee.

    Again according to Gambero Rosso, “Setting aside tastes and technical considerations regarding the quality of blends, for millions of people around the world, Starbucks is their coffee touchstone. Thanks to Starbucks (its menu and its shelves stocked with retail), these people know that there is no such thing as “coffee,” but rather “coffees”, which come in a variety of blends from a variety of sources. Thanks to Starbucks they learn what sustainability means.

    They are up to date on characteristics and areas of production thanks to the short synopses provided them. No one in a traditional Italian bar can teach you these things, and the result is that, of all the populations in the Western World, Italians may know the least about coffee. So much for being the home of the ‘tazzulela’.”  

    Objection #2: But coffee in Italy costs 1 euro and at Starbucks it costs more than 3! If Starbucks really does sell espresso for 3 euros, it’ll be an outrage, writes one noted Italian expert. True, yet not for the reasons you’d suppose.

    Rather it will be an outrage because they’ll have figured out long before us that people are willing to pay more, even three times more, for a reliably good coffee served in a pleasant environment. Starbucks won’t be a huckster if it succeeds in its endeavor, but we’ll be the chumps. What it will mean is that they – not us – knew how to teach customers the cost of quality.

    Nowhere in the constitution of coffee does it say that coffee must cost a euro. It’s an anachronistic belief, a cultural throwback belonging to an Italy that is disappearing and will continue to disappear more and more rapidly, composed of amateur baristas who open a business by placing all their trust in machines bought on loan, in labels provided to them by some coffee company, and in bars furnished by a “trusted” supplier.

    The truth is that a successful model can’t be built by selling coffee for a euro. To attract clients willing to spend more, you need to spend more. Starbucks took that risk in 1982 when its visionary CEO Howard Shultz, then Director of Marketing, went so far as to put his house up in order to embark on a new project as ambitious as it was unheard of. And it’s ironic to note that he got the idea after visiting a café in Milan. That’s where he realized there was a totally new market to make up.  

    Objection#3: OK, but Italians are in the habit of taking their coffee differently: three drops standing up and off to work. A far cry from those American big gulps!

    The “habit” argument makes me smile every time. For decades the most hardened habits have been continuously discarded in favor of other, decidedly more European and international ones, and yet we continue to take refuge in our castle of provincialism in the name of defending a tradition.  

    Example: “In Italy people want corner stores, not chains!” said some. Meanwhile Zara, H&M, OBI, MediaWorld, Ipercoop, and similar companies bred like rabbits, leading myriad local shops to fail.  

    Example: “In Italy people eat well! We don’t want American hamburgers!” said some, while at the same time McDonald’s, Burger King, American Graffiti, and the gourmet hamburger took the peninsula by storm. Example: “Italians drink wine, not fermented malt!” Meanwhile beer’s everywhere and everybody has a friend who brews his own in his garage. Birrerie are chockfull of young people open to new things. Only two things in Italy are sacred and inviolable: soccer (we’re all super coaches) and mammas. There’s nothing wrong with having everything else up for discussion.  

    Objection #4: Why is Starbucks only opening now? It must have been scared to compete with our cafés, huh? Wrong again. Starbucks has already opened stores in 67 countries that offer greater guarantees for the colossal investments needed to open them. Why drive yourself crazy getting entangled with Italian bureaucracy, high tax rates, and a political class that can’t quite be trusted? It didn’t invest in Italy until now not because it considered the country better than others but because, alas, it’s worse, at least in terms of opening a business. 

    But to conclude this list of slightly provocative observations, I’ll add a few other reasons why we should consider this opening as a great opportunity for our country and our more open-minded entrepreneurs.  

    Opportunity #1: We can really start to talk about coffee in a serious and meaningful way. Café owners could and should learn how to explain where the blend they’re selling comes from, what a ‘purge’ is, and what the best temperature for extraction is. And once and for all we can dispose of the belief that because Italians have espresso pumping in their veins, they don’t need to be educated in espresso, that somehow we’re born perfect.  

    Instead we need to keep better records, offer more choices, make an artisanal brand, maybe even toast our beans ourselves, and obviously sell them for three euro. That’s how you vanquish a giant like Starbucks.  

    Opportunity #2: Attract customers disappointed by Starbucks. Offer different products for a well-established target. There’s still time. We have a year. It could be they’ll even find you ready and waiting.  

    Opportunity #3: They’ll make room for new businesses. It’s sad to say, but many small cafes will close. Starbucks will lead us to more meaningfully reflect on what is happening to our own businesses.

    And those who aren’t at the top of their game will be wiped out. Some by Starbucks, some by local competitors who are better prepared for Starbucks. The move shouldn’t demoralize or de-motivate people. It should spur us to keep working. Because the fewer new competitors on the market, the more room there is for professionals who know how to do their job. In short, take it easy, the Frappucino isn’t going to become the law of the land. If you think it’s nasty, no one is going to force you to drink it. Each of us can continue to pick up a cup of Joe at the local café for a euro.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Starbucks Doesn’t Spell The Apocalypse!

    So Starbucks is opening in Italy. The magazine Gambero Rosso, one of the gatekeepers of fine dining and drinking in Italy, recently published a wonderfully written and well-researched article titled 10 Reasons Why Starbucks in Italy is a Catastrophe. 

    Despite the title, the article isn’t all negative; the magazine didn’t rush to defend our traditions.  On the contrary, it took aninterest in Seattle’sinvasion. But the questions pile up: Why hasn’t Starbucks opened store in Italy until now? Will it succeed? Will it hurt small businesses? Will it change Italians’ habits? Only time will tell, but we can make our modest predictions if we examine the hard data:

    ● Starbucks is the largest chain of coffee shops in the world, not in franchising but in terms of real estate.

    ● Starbucks wasn’tborn yesterday. It opened in 1971. It has 25,000 stores around the world.

    ● People like Starbucks.Its brand is trendy and it makes excellent coffee served in a comfortable space with free Wi-Fi designed to make you feel at home. Obviously there are plenty of old and highly regarded cafés in Italy. But they’re the exceptions that prove the rule.

    Objection #1: Starbucks coffee is nasty and Italian coffee is the best in the world. Actually Gambero Rosso recognizes that “Italy isn’t the number one consumer of coffee per capita, but in all likelihood it is the country where the drink plays the most crucial social, cultural and anthropological role. 

    Nevertheless, as has happened to many other excellent Italian commodities, coffee has been abused and degraded over the years, and is now a shadow of its former self.” Setting aside tastes for the moment, let’s try to understand how the Seattle coffee company achieved its global success.

    Starbucks has over 30 blends of coffee, ranging from the most famous blends to local selections to reserve roasts. Their website even has a feature that will recommend the best coffee or blend for you personally, depending on how you answer three specific questions

    How many cafes in Italy can say the same? And how many in Italy know that at Starbucks you can “design” your own espresso? Then there’s the part-hipster, part-metropolitan ambience that young people armed with iPhones are drawn to like bees to flowers; the free Wi-Fi; the courteous and competent staff that asks you what you’d like and writes your name on your personalized cup; the large, clean and totally livable spaces; the fact that you don’t need a key to go to the bathroom; the fact that there aren’t limits to how long you can stay; the fact that, on average, they’re better than we are at making coffee.

    Again according to Gambero Rosso, “Setting aside tastes and technical considerations regarding the quality of blends, for millions of people around the world, Starbucks is their coffee touchstone. Thanks to Starbucks (its menu and its shelves stocked with retail), these people know that there is no such thing as “coffee,” but rather “coffees”, which come in a variety of blends from a variety of sources. Thanks to Starbucks they learn what sustainability means.

    They are up to date on characteristics and areas of production thanks to the short synopses provided them. No one in a traditional Italian bar can teach you these things, and the result is that, of all the populations in the Western World, Italians may know the least about coffee. So much for being the home of the ‘tazzulela’.”  

    Objection #2: But coffee in Italy costs 1 euro and at Starbucks it costs 3! If Starbucks really does sell espresso for 3 euros, it’ll be an outrage, writes one noted Italian expert. True, yet not for the reasons you’d suppose.

    Rather it will be an outrage because they’ll have figured out long before us that people are willing to pay more, even three times more, for a reliably good coffee served in a pleasant environment. Starbucks won’t be a huckster if it succeeds in its endeavor, but we’ll be the chumps. What it will mean is that they – not us – knew how to teach customers the cost of quality.

    Nowhere in the constitution of coffee does it say that coffee must cost a euro. It’s an anachronistic belief, a cultural throwback belonging to an Italy that is disappearing and will continue to disappear more and more rapidly, composed of amateur baristas who open a business by placing all their trust in machines bought on loan, in labels provided to them by some coffee company, and in bars furnished by a “trusted” supplier.

    The truth is that a successful model can’t be built by selling coffee for a euro. To attract clients willing to spend more, you need to spend more. Starbucks took that risk in 1982 when its visionary CEO Howard Shultz, then Director of Marketing, went so far as to put his house up in order to embark on a new project as ambitious as it was unheard of. And it’s ironic to note that he got the idea after visiting a café in Milan. That’s where he realized there was a totally new market to make up.  

    Objection#3: OK, but Italians are in the habit of taking their coffee differently: three drops standing up and off to work. A far cry from those American big gulps!

    The “habit” argument makes me smile every time. For decades the most hardened habits have been continuously discarded in favor of other, decidedly more European and international ones, and yet we continue to take refuge in our castle of provincialism in the name of defending a tradition.  

    Example: “In Italy people want corner stores, not chains!” said some. Meanwhile Zara, H&M, OBI, MediaWorld, Ipercoop, and similar companies bred like rabbits, leading myriad local shops to fail.  

    Example: “In Italy people eat well! We don’t want American hamburgers!” said some, while at the same time McDonald’s, Burger King, American Graffiti, and the gourmet hamburger took the peninsula by storm. Example: “Italians drink wine, not fermented malt!” Meanwhile beer’s everywhere and everybody has a friend who brews his own in his garage. Birrerie are chockfull of young people open to new things. Only two things in Italy are sacred and inviolable: soccer (we’re all super coaches) and mammas. There’s nothing wrong with having everything else up for discussion.  

    Objection #4: Why is Starbucks only opening now? It must have been scared to compete with our cafés, huh? Wrong again. Starbucks has already opened stores in 67 countries that offer greater guarantees for the colossal investments needed to open them. Why drive yourself crazy getting entangled with Italian bureaucracy, high tax rates, and a political class that can’t quite be trusted? It didn’t invest in Italy until now not because it considered the country better than others but because, alas, it’s worse, at least in terms of opening a business. 

    But to conclude this list of slightly provocative observations, I’ll add a few other reasons why we should consider this opening as a great opportunity for our country and our more open-minded entrepreneurs.  

    Opportunity #1: We can really start to talk about coffee in a serious and meaningful way. Café owners could and should learn how to explain where the blend they’re selling comes from, what a ‘purge’ is, and what the best temperature for extraction is. And once and for all we can dispose of the belief that because Italians have espresso pumping in their veins, they don’t need to be educated in espresso, that somehow we’re born perfect.  

    Instead we need to keep better records, offer more choices, make an artisanal brand, maybe even toast our beans ourselves, and obviously sell them for three euro. That’s how you vanquish a giant like Starbucks.  

    Opportunity #2: Attract customers disappointed by Starbucks. Offer different products for a well-established target. There’s still time. We have a year. It could be they’ll even find you ready and waiting.  

    Opportunity #3: They’ll make room for new businesses. It’s sad to say, but many small cafes will close. Starbucks will lead us to more meaningfully reflect on what is happening to our own businesses.

    And those who aren’t at the top of their game will be wiped out. Some by Starbucks, some by local competitors who are better prepared for Starbucks. The move shouldn’t demoralize or de-motivate people. It should spur us to keep working. Because the fewer new competitors on the market, the more room there is for professionals who know how to do their job. In short, take it easy, the Frappucino isn’t going to become the law of the land. If you think it’s nasty, no one is going to force you to drink it. Each of us can continue to pick up a cup of Joe at the local café for a euro.

  • Opinioni

    IO DICO: SI STARBUCKS. Starbucks non è l’Apocalisse, e la fine del mondo non è vicina


    Quindi Starbucks apre in Italia. Proprio ieri Il Gambero Rosso, uno dei guardiani del mangiare e bere bene in Italia, ha pubblicato un articolo molto ben scritto e documentato, dal titolo: “10 motivi per cui l'arrivo di Starbucks in Italia non è una catastrofe.” (leggi >>)


    Ma la maggioranza dei commenti non è negativa nei confronti della rivista, non si è scagliata alla difesa della tradizione nostrana, ma anzi accoglie con interesse l’invasione della medusa di Seattle. 


    Tante le domande: Perchè Starbucks apre solo adesso nel nostro paese? Avrà  successo? Danneggierà I piccoli imprenditori? Cambierà le nostre abitudini?  Solo il tempo darà una risposta certa ma noi, analizzando dati concreti, azzardiamo le nostre modeste ipotesi, partendo dai fatti:
     
    - Starbucks è la piu’ grande catena al mondo di caffetterie. Non in franchising, tutte di proprietà del gruppo.
    - Starbucks opera non da ieri ma dal 1971. Ha aperto nel mondo oltre 25,000 caffe’.
    - Starbucks piace. Perchè  ha un brand trendy. E perche’ fa un caffe’ di eccellente qualita’, servito in ambienti confortevoli, con wi-fi gratuito, dove ci si sente a casa. 


    Ovviamente anche in Italia ci sono ottime Caffetterie, storiche e di pregio, ma quelle rappresentano le eccezioni, non la regola.


    Obiezione n.1.  Il caffe di Starbucks fa schifo e quello italiano e’ il migliore al mondo.
    Addirittura il Gambero Rosso deve riconoscere: ”L'Italia non è il primo consumatore mondiale di caffè procapite, ma con ogni probabilità è il paese dove questa bevanda ha un ruolo sociale, culturale e antropologico più cruciale e irrinunciabile. Tuttavia, come capitato per tante altre eccellenze dell'Italia, anche questa è stata maltrattata e umiliata negli anni, fino al punto di diventare l'ombra di se stessa.“
     
    A prescindere dai gusti, cerchiamo di capire a cosa si deve il successo planetario della torrefazione di Seattle. 


    Starbucks ha più di 30 miscele di caffè differenti, che spaziano dai blend più rinomati, alle selezioni mono-origine fino alle riserve. Sul loro sito web hanno addirittura un processo in tre step che, a seconda delle risposte che fornisci a tre domande specifiche, ti consiglia il caffè migliore per te o la miscela più adatta ai tuoi gusti.


    Quanti caffè in Italia offrono una scelta simile? E quanti in Italia sanno che da Starbucks puoi “disegnare” il tuo espresso, esattamente come lo desideri? Aggiungiamo poi: l’atmosfera un po’ hipster e un po’ metropolitana che attira ragazzini armati di iphone come l’ape è attirata dai fiori; Il wi-fi gratuito; il personale cortese e competente che ti domanda i tuoi gusti e scrive il tuo nome sulla tazza di caffè personalizzata; gli spazi ampi, puliti e totalmente vivibili; il fatto che per andare in bagno non serve “la chiave“, ma è accessibile a tutti; il fatto che non ci siano limiti di permanenza all’interno dei loro locali; il fatto che siano più bravi, in media, di noi italiani a fare il caffè. 
     
    Scrive ancora Il Gambero Rosso “Al di là dei gusti e delle considerazioni tecniche sulla qualità delle miscele proposte, Starbucks è il primo touch point che milioni di persone hanno con il mondo del caffè. Queste persone, grazie a Starbucks (sia nei menù che negli scaffali dove i prodotti sono in vendita), scoprono che non esiste "il caffè", ma esistono "i caffè", modulati in tante varietà, in tante miscele, in diverse origini. Apprendono il tema della sostenibilità. Vengono resi edotti sulle caratteristiche e sulle aree di produzione anche grazie a piccoli compendi formativi. Nessuno in un bar tradizionale italiano è in grado di insegnarti queste cose, il risultato è che quello italiano è forse il popolo che sa meno di caffè in occidente. Altro che patria della tazzulella...“

     
    Obiezione n. 2. Ma il caffè  in Italia costa 1 Euro e quello di Starbucks ne costerà 3!
    Se Starbucks apre davvero e vendera’ l’espresso a 3 Euro dovremmo davvero arrabbiarci, scrive un noto direttore commerciale ed esperto italiano di ristorazione.  Ma non per la ragione che pensate ma perche’ vorra’ dire che non avevamo capito prima di loro che la gente e’ disposta a pagare di piu’, anche il triplo, per un caffe di qualità elevata e garantita, servito in un’atmosfera piacevole. Se Starbucks riesce in questa impresa non sarebbe lui il truffatore, saremmo noi dei polli.  Vorra’ dire che avranno saputo educare il consumatore che la qualita’ costa. 

     
    Non e’ scritto nella costituzione che il caffè debba costare un euro. E’ una convinzione anacronistica, un retaggio culturale di un’Italia che sta scomparendo e che scomparirà sempre più velocemente, fatta di baristi improvvisati che aprono un’attività facendo affidamento sulle macchine in comodato d’uso, sull’insegna regalata dalla torrefazione e sul bancone offerto dal fornitore di fiducia. 


    La verità  e che non si puo’ costruire un modello replicabile di successo vendendo il caffe’ ad un euro. Per attirare clienti disposti a spendere di piu’ occorre spendere di piu’. Starbucks ha rischiato tutto nel 1982 quando il visionario Howard Shultz, allora Direttore Commerciale, oggi suo CEO, si e’ impegnato anche la propria casa per indebitarsi fino al collo ed inseguire un progetto nuovo, tanto ambizioso quanto inedito. Ed è ironico dover sottolineare che quella idea gli venne dopo una visita proprio ad un caffe’ di Milano. Li’ capi’ che c’era un nuovo mercato tutto da inventare.

     
    Obiezione n.3. Si ok, ma l’italiano è abituato a prenderlo diversamente, tre lacrime nere in piedi e poi via di corsa al lavoro, altro che questi beveroni americani!
    Il discorso abitudine dovrebbe sempre farci un po’ sorridere. Sono decenni che vengono continuamente scardinate le abitudini più consolidate a favore di altre, decisamente più europee e internazionali, eppure continuiamo ad arroccarci sopra al nostro castello di provincialismo in nome della difesa della tradizione.


     
    Esempi:
    «In Italia la gente vuole il negoziante sotto casa! Altro che catene!»
    Il tutto mentre Zara, H&M, OBI, MediaWorld, Ipercoop e affini proliferavano come conigli facendo fallire miriadi di negozietti.
     
    «In Italia la gente mangia bene! Altro che ‘sti hamburger americani!»
    Contemporaneamente, McDonald’s, BurgerKing, America Graffiti e la mania degli hamburger gourmet conquistavano la penisola.

     
    «L’italiano beve vino! Mica malto fermentato!»
    Birre ovunque e chiunque ha un amico che in garage fa la sua. Le birrerie sono piene zeppe di giovani piu’ aperti al nuovo. Etc, etc
    Due cose in Italia sono e rimarranno intoccabili. Il calcio (siamo tutti grandissimi allenatori) e la mamma. Tutto il resto non c’è niente di male a metterlo in discussione.
     
    Obiezione n.4. Ma perchè Starbucks apre solo adesso in Italia? Temeva la concorrenza dei nostri baretti?
    Anche qui la verità  è un’altra. Starbucks ha aperto già in altri 67 paesi che offrivano maggiori garanzie per i colossali investimenti necessari. Perche’ impazzire con la burocrazia Italiana, con le nostre tasse e con una classe politica non propriamente affidabile? Non ha investito prima non perche’ ci considerava meglio degli altri, ma ahime’ peggio, perlomeno sotto l’aspetto business.


    Comunque per chiudere queste osservazioni un po’ provocatorie ci sono un sacco di ragioni per ritenere questa apertura una grande opportunita’ per il nostro paese e per i nostri imprenditori piu’ aperti al nuovo.
     
    Opportunita’ n. 1 Potremmo veramente parlare di caffe’ in maniera seria ed approfondita. 
    I proprietari di bar potranno e anzi dovranno imparare ed essere capaci di spiegare da dove proviene la miscela che vendono, che cosa sia il purge o quale è la temperatura di estrazione ottimale. Ed abbandonare una volta per tutte la credenza che in quanto Italiani l’espresso ci scorre nelle vene e quindi non abbiamo bisogno di formazione. Noi nasciamo perfetti per definizione.
     
    Dovremo invece documentarci meglio, offrire piu’ scelte, fare un nostro brand artigianale, magari tostare I chicchi in proprio, ed ovviamente venderlo a tre euro. E Starbucks sara’ sconfitto con le sue stesse armi
     
    Opportunita’ n 2. Attirare i delusi da Starbucks. Offire prodotti diversi per un target gia’ definito. 
    Peraltro c'è tempo un anno dunque si potrebbe valutare anche l'ipotesi di farsi trovar pronti.
     
    Opportunita’ n 3. Si apriranno nuovi spazi di business. 
     E’ triste da dire, ma molti baretti chiuderanno. Starbucks porterà ad una riflessione sempre più profonda riguardo a ciò che si sta facendo dentro la propria attività. E chi non sarà all’altezza della situazione, verrà semplicemente spazzato via. Chi da Starbucks, chi dai concorrenti locali di Starbucks più preparati.
     
    Questo non deve demoralizzarci o demotivarci, deve invece spronarci a fare sempre. Perché meno concorrenti improvvisati sul mercato significa più spazio per i professionisti che fanno il loro mestiere bene.

     
    Insomma tranquillizziamoci, il Frappuccino non sara’ reso obbligatorio per decreto,  se vi fa schifo nessuno vi obblighera’ a berlo. E tutti potremo continuare a prendere la nostra tazzulella sotto casa, ad un euro. Insomma Starbucks non è l’ Apocalisse, e la fine del mondo non è vicina.