Starbucks is testing its upscale and super-sized cafe concept overseas with a Reserve Roastery in China, the company’s fastest-growing market, as the pace of worldwide sales stalls.
The whopping 30,000 square feet store, about half the size of a soccer pitch, opens Wednesday in Shanghai and is part of moves championed by founder and chairman Howard Schultz.
The new shop comprises of three coffee bars offering different brewing methods, one tea bar, as well as one Italian bakery.
The Shanghai Roastery will become the first Starbucks location, and the first-of-its kind in China, to integrate a real-time, in-store and online customer experience.
By using an augmented reality digital app, customers can point their mobile devices around the new shop to discover, they can read about the process a bean goes through on the way to becoming a cup of coffee.
“It’s like Alice in Wonderland meets Willy Wonka,” said Emily Chang, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for 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.”
When they point their phones at key features around the Roastery, such as the cask, new information comes to life, serving as a digital tour guide. Along the way, customers collect virtual badges, and once they’ve earned all of them, they’ll receive a custom Roastery social media filter to share.
“We wanted to create a completely new brand experience for our customers,” said Chang.
“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.”
The digital experience is designed by Starbucks and powered by Alibaba Group’s scene-recognition technology.
This experience also extends to Alibaba’s online marketplace, Tmall, allowing customers to purchase Shanghai Roastery and Reserve branded merchandise and whole bean coffee for delivery directly to their homes, or to register for specially curated coffee tasting experiences that can be enjoyed at the Starbucks Roastery in Shanghai.
To pay tribute to China’s tea culture, the coffee chain features China’s first Starbucks Teavana Bar, allowing customers to select a Teavana signature pure tea or blend, served either hot or iced. Inspired by the traditional clay teapots in China, the tea experience bar is a light jade color with dark shadows to represent tea stains formed in a teapot over time.
China is Starbucks’ fastest-growing market with a new store opening every 15 hours. The shop will also have a bakery and cafe with more than 80 menu items baked fresh daily.