Starbucks' next move: Italian restaurants

SEATTLE, WA (WASHINGTON POST) – After years of trying to win over lunch and dinner crowds, Starbucks is preparing to open its first stand-alone Italian restaurant.

The company is teaming up with Princi, a small chain of 24-hour bakeries in Milan and London, to offer customers freshly made items including focaccia sandwiches, margherita pizzas and tiramisu. The first stage of the partnership debuts on Tuesday (Nov 7), as Starbucks opens a Princi bakery in its upscale Reserve Roastery in Seattle.

The company plans to eventually open bakeries inside all of its Reserve locations, and next year hopes to open stand-alone Princi eateries across the country. The openings will be in New York, Seattle and Chicago.

The move is the latest effort by the 45-year-old coffee purveyor to expand into food. Many of its attempts – prepackaged cake pops, truffle mac and cheese, ‘sushi burritos’ – have fizzled, analysts say, in part because Starbucks stores haven’t had kitchens. If customers are paying US$10 for lunch, analysts say they want it to be prepared on the spot.

“There is a perception that Starbucks is selling an inferior product,” Nick Setyan, an analyst for Wedbush Securities, told The Washington Post in September. “Customers are saying, ‘How good can that salad or sandwich be if you’re not making it in front of me?’ ”

The new Princi locations are to have full kitchens staffed with bakers and “food ambassadors” called commessas. The menu, with about 100 items, includes baked eggs for breakfast, caprese salads for lunch, cocktails and small plates for dinner, and tarts, cookies and crostatas for dessert. Items will be priced between US$3 and US$11.

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