Starbucks Comes to South Africa with Plans for More Locations

The ubiquitous coffeehouse chain Starbucks has opened locations in far flung places from New York to Tokyo. On April 21, the chain opened their first store in South Africa with plans to open more in the country.

According to Public Radio International, the new location is located in the ritzy Rosebank section of Johannesburg, home to upscale shopping malls and offices. Even after a week of being open, lines were stretching out the door for a taste of the upscale beverages and bakery items Starbucks has to offer.

Other items also available are Roobis Tea, at prices that are more reflective of South Africa’s economy. UPI reported that a grande latte costs the equivalent of $2.10 in American dollars, which is notably less than in the U.S.

According to a press release from Starbucks, the design of this store features artwork with a South African feel and a copper mural that’s reminiscent of the chain’s flagship location in Seattle’s Pike Place.

“This store will not only offer amazing coffee and world-class customer service, it is a representation of our commitment to South Africa through its localized design,” said Carlo Gonzaga, CEO of Taste Holdings, the company Starbucks has partnered with, to open in the country.

Gonzaga continued, “We have taken inspiration from rich local color palettes and designs, with materials and artworks produced by local artisans. It signifies the start of our coffee journey in South Africa.”

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Starbucks had initially announced their plans to open in South Africa in July 2015. Taste Holdings is the licensee of the Rosebank store, and will own and operate future stores that open.

“The coffee market here is vibrant and growing fast – we want to be part of that growth, bringing the passion and energy of this remarkable country into the design of our first store and our first barista team,” said Kris Engskov, president of Starbucks Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, in a press release at the time.

As reported by The Globe and Mail, Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, was said to be surprised by the large turnout. This has caused the company to change it’s expansion plan in South Africa, where initially only 12 to 15 stores were going to open.

At the equivalent cost of around $9 million, Starbucks plans to open 150 outlets in South Africa over a period of two years.

“I have been to many, many Starbucks openings around the world. I have never seen a line like this a week after opening,” said Schultz. “We’re off to a fantastic start.”

Last week, the Seattle-based coffeehouse chain saw continued success in South Africa, with the opening of a second store in a new shopping center called Mall of Africa. Public Radio International, reported that the new mall, which is between Johannesburg and Pretoria, saw a reported 91,000 people in attendance, causing mass traffic.

“People want to be associated with celebrity, they want to be in the forefront of experiencing new sensations,” said Andy Rice, an advertising and brand expert, during an interview on South African radio.

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Starbucks is in good company with other American chains that opened in South Africa over the past few years and have seen success, according to The Globe and Mail.

Burger King and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts saw long lines at their Johannesburg and Cape Town stores for months following their openings. In addition, Domino’s Pizza saw much success with its 2014 opening, and Dunkin’ Donuts plans to open its first South African stores in late June.

“Despite some complaints on South African social media about ‘neo-colonialism’ by U.S. multinational companies, many of the country’s middle-class consumers have become obsessed with U.S. brands,” said Geoffrey York, of The Globe and Mail.

“It has taken us a long time to get here, but now that we’re here … I’m convinced that we will take advantage of the growing middle class,” said Howard Schultz.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)