Starbucks opened its largest cafe in the world in Shanghai yesterday as the US-based beverage giant bets big on the burgeoning coffee culture of a country traditionally known for tea-drinking.
The opening of the sprawling, two-storey outlet in a busy central shopping district was thronged by hundreds of customers, some waiting more than an hour in long queues stretching outside for a block in scenes reminiscent of a hyped-up new iPhone release.
The cafe spans 2 700m² – nearly half the area of a soccer field – and is the company’s second Starbucks Reserve Roastery, a larger type of store featuring premium coffees, teas, and coffee-infused beer along with a personalised barista service.
The first roastery outlet opened in Starbucks’ hometown of Seattle in 2014.
Starbucks already has more than 3 000 of its standard cafes in 136 Chinese cities, including more than 600 in Shanghai alone, the largest number of stores in any city in the world.
A new Starbucks opens every 15 hours in China, the company says.
Chairman Howard Schultz told Bloomberg News on Tuesday ahead of the store’s opening that China was on course to become the company’s largest market, in less than a decade.
The store has a Willy Wonka feel, with a giant two-storey cask holding tons of freshly roasted beans that are sent out to the cafe’s various bars via tubing that snakes along the ceiling, while packaged beans wander around on conveyor belts.