Why There is No Starbucks in Italy

According to the Financial Times, Starbucks has bowed to the Italian baristi.

This is an interesting case study for students of global business (or people stuck for a blog entry over the holidays.) Starbucks appeared in six more countries this year, including Russia and Egypt, bringing the total to 43 countries. But they have no presence in Djibouti, Mongolia – or Italy, claims the FT. I wonder about this claim. Is there really a Starbucks store in India? I couldn’t find any when I was there.


Anyway, in the case of Italy, it seems that factors like pricing, customer impatience, and obtaining the necessary planning permission for a chain of stores are major factors in keeping Starbucks out. But wait a minute, wouldn’t McDonalds have the similar problems with planning and pricing, and there are plenty of McDonalds er, “restaurants” in Italy selling cheap food and competing with local vendors offering great fare of world renown? I don’t understand the logic here. Plus the Starbucks product line is a lot more diversified than just coffee. There’s got to be some other major factor at play here. According to the FT, Starbucks say the lack of an Italian presence is “more out of humility and respect” and “it’s not for business reasons and Italy is not less of a strategic priority.” I suspect it’s because Starbucks can’t source those tiny little cups with a big enough logo.

Personally, I think Starbucks would do well in Italy – even if its only from tourist business. I’ve always been irritated by those tiny little cups of coffee the Italians drink. For me, if it ain’t in a 20 ounce cup, then it’s not a proper drink. And coffee needs to be drunk sitting down. Can you imagine if the Irish decided that Guinness should be drunk out of tiny little glasses, standing at a bar? Ridiculous.

Oh well, I am off to Firenze shortly to buy shoes, so I shall try and ascertain the opinions of the locals. I’m bringing my 20 oz travel mug with me though.

More: Starbucks Geek (Il weblog per i veri amanti di Starbucks)

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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