Make us your home page

Pizza with your coffee? Starbucks soon will be opening Italian restaurants

After years of trying to win over lunch and dinner crowds, Starbucks is preparing to open its first stand-alone Italian restaurant. [Associated Press file photo]

After years of trying to win over lunch and dinner crowds, Starbucks is preparing to open its first stand-alone Italian restaurant. [Associated Press file photo]

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 will debut Tuesday, when 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.

"We're getting into the food business," Howard Schultz, the chairman of Starbucks, said in an interview. "Princi will be fully integrated with bakery operations, so not only will we be roasting coffee, but we'll be baking bread, pastries — the kind of Italian pastries you've never seen in America."

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 $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 $3 and $11.

In 1980, Italian baker Rocco Princi started the boutique company, which now has five European locations. In July, Starbucks announced that it had invested in Princi and had become the company's global licensee. (Princi's U.S. workers will be employed by Starbucks.)

"We have never baked in our stores in 45 years. But all of that will change with the creation of this unique partnership," Schultz said in a statement at the time. "Rocco and his team at Princi possess a passion for handcrafted food and artisanal baked goods that mirrors how I feel about our coffee."

The announcement comes as Starbucks prepares to open its first coffee shops in Italy next year, starting with a Reserve Roastery in Milan.

"Having Princi in the Roastery in Italy will give us instant credibility, among other things," Schultz said.

The Seattle-based chain has tried for years, with mixed success, to get its customers to think beyond beverages. About 20 percent of Starbucks's revenue — which last year was $21.32 billion — comes from food sales, up 16 percent from five years ago.

But this isn't the first time Starbucks has pinned its hopes on a stand-alone bakery. In 2012, the company paid $100 million for La Boulange, a San Francisco-based company with 23 stores. Starbucks had high hopes then, too, with plans to open about 400 new locations in five years.

But it didn't take long for those plans to fall flat. Three years later, Starbucks said it would be closing its La Boulange bakeries because they were "not sustainable for the company's long-term growth."

Pizza with your coffee? Starbucks soon will be opening Italian restaurants 11/07/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 7, 2017 3:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists


    ST. PETERSBURG — Good Housekeeping and St. Petersburg-based HSN have chosen five finalists for their entrepreneur competition. The partners are searching for a novel item to promote as endorsed by the Good Housekeeping Seal, denoting reliability and quality.

    HSN and Good Housekeeping chose five finalists for its entrepreneur contest. Pictured is Perry Mercer from Fort Worth showing off his product on the Home Shopping Network in June. | [Times file photo]
  2. New vegan prepares for Thanksgiving with meat loving family


    This will be my first Thanksgiving as a vegan. And, I'm nervous.

    Vegans rejoice. Non-vegans listen up. Tofurky, a plant-based meat company,  is selling a holiday feast with a tofu-based roast, gravy and a brownie. The items can also be purchased separately. 
[Company handout]
  3. We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem


    What one thing could be added to the Tampa Bay startup community to help it grow and prosper?

    Tampa Bay serial entrepreneur Tom Wallace: The area needs our own unicorn, a breakout tech company that can grown to more than $1 billion in value. [Handout photo]
  4. Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

    Economic Development

    As economists predicted, the tough hit that Florida jobs took from Hurricane Irma was not long-lived. The state added 125,300 jobs in October, almost breaking even from the 127,400 jobs it lost in September.

    Florida's unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in October, down from 3.8 percent in September, state figures released Friday said. Pictured is a job fair. | [Times file photo]
  5. In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare


    Despite the budget cuts, the attempts to repeal and replace, and reports of sharp rises in premiums, Floridians and other Americans are signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at record rates this year.

    About 1.5 million people across the country have signed up through in the first 11 days of the six-week enrollment period for 2018. That's up from about 1 million last year at this time. "We've been very, very busy," said Melanie Hall, executive director of the Family Health Care Foundation, a health care navigator organization in Tampa. [Times files]

A look at the website in November 2017 as signups began for 2018 under the Affordable Care Act.