Starbucks Reserve unveils new global store format

The new Starbucks Reserve Seattle store opened this week, offering a taste of what is to come for the 1,000-plus stores planned across the world, including Asia.

In just 14 months since the concept was unveiled at an investors conference, dozens of Reserve stores have opened, including a massive Chinese flagship in Shanghai.

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The Starbucks Reserve Seattle Sodo store showcases the latest evolution of the upmarket sub-brand’s fit-out and features the new Princi Italian restaurant concept with an open kitchen, which is seamlessly folded into the cafe format. Starbucks plans to open standalone Princi outlets in Seattle, Chicago and New York, and possibly key Asian markets in the future.

Starbucks partners work in the new Starbucks Reserve store at the Starbucks Support Center in Seattle on Wednesday, February 21, 2018.  (Joshua Trujillo, Starbucks)

Designed in an open, marketplace-style, the new store allows customers to order from the Princi counter or Reserve coffee bar, then gather with family and friends at community tables or lounge areas around two fireplaces. The open Princi kitchen means customers can watch fresh bread and pastries being baked.

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Located on the street level of the company’s headquarters, the store was created “to offer a mingling of public and private; a place where Starbucks partners and visitors can relax in a leather lounge chair near the fireplace, nosh on a piece of focaccia at the counter or enjoy the latest Reserve espresso and a flaky cornetti from Princi”, according to Starbucks.

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Christian Davies, VP creative global design and innovation for Starbucks, wants visitors to feel like they are part of an experience from the moment they cross the threshold and pass through the entry doors.

“Every detail is deliberate, starting with the pattern on the hand-carved doors – concentric circles borrowed from the art of a Starbucks Reserve coffee card.

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“When you walk into the space from the entry, you can take everything in in the sweep of an eye,” says Davies. “We wanted people to walk through those doors and immediately find themselves in something different and unique, but they would still recognise as Starbucks.”

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Behind that, through framed art glass, is the Princi kitchen. Anchoring the centre of the main cafe is a floor-to-ceiling fireplace for customers to gather around. On the right is a long wood-topped craft bar with Starbucks Reserve coffees and a mixology bar, complete with the coffee library and doors to the patio.

Starbucks_Reserve_SODO_(20)In addition to the open layout, Davies added other subtle touches, such as flecks of amber-colored glass and mirror sprinkled into the concrete floor that help suggest a path through the store.

“When people come into a space they can navigate, you can see their shoulders relax. They instantly feel more comfortable,” says Davies.

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Art meets leisure

The path begins at a stunning copper art installation that features nearly 3,700 Starbucks Reserve cards, designed in-house. From a distance, the card wall’s shape evokes the topography of the mountains where coffee is grown. Each card can pivot, creating waves of colour like fish scales, but step closer, and individual coffee cards come into view, each one a work of art in itself.

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“On one level, it’s simply a beautiful, gestural piece,” says Davies. “As you dive into the next level, and then the next, more comes out.”

Beyond the card wall is the first of three intimate meeting spaces, each creating its own moment of storytelling. The chef’s table room features the story of Rocco Princi, with shelves lined with ingredients from his pantry – cans of capers, artichokes and tomatoes and tall glass jars of preserved lemons. A favourite poem by Alda Merini, a friend of Princi, hangs in a place of honour.

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Gathered around the long wooden chef’s table, visitors can look through a glass wall into the Princi kitchen with artisan bakers and chefs at work.

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And taking centre stage is the Princi bakery and cafe, featuring the full Princi menu with artisanal baked breads, and breakfast anchored by signature cornetti and brioche. At lunchtime, the menu offers soups, salads, focaccia and pizza. To the right is the mixology bar for later in the day with traditional Italian aperitivo, such as Aperol Spritz paired with small plates, as well as beer, wine and spirits.

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Celebrating ‘our never-ending curiosity’

The store represents the latest phase of innovation in the century-old building in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood, which has served as Starbucks headquarters since 1993. In its previous life as a Sears Catalog distribution center, it employed what was then cutting-edge technology, with orders being picked by warehouse workers on roller skates and bicycles and delivered to the first floor via slides for quick shipping. The Reserve store continues that enterprising spirit, acting like a testing ground for the company, where it will debut new coffees, launch new products and host events. The store’s second meeting room, tucked back between the kitchen and the craft bar, is a tribute to this tradition. Starbucks R&D team will use this working lab to taste and test new beverages, starting with the cold coffee innovation.

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“The lab celebrates our never-ending curiosity,” says Davies. “We can continue to push R&D around new beverages and ingredient combinations.”

The Reserve coffee bar is an eye-catching counterpoint to the Princi case. Here the craft of coffee is on display, with a full-lineup of brewing methods to explore, including siphon. Chemex, pour-over and Clover and a variety of Starbucks Reserve beverage creations to explore. The backdrop for this stunning display is a dark-stained walnut and leather back-bar, with hand-stitched copper wire adding sparkle and interest.

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The story from bean to cup

In the third meeting space, visitors can learn about the story of coffee from bean to cup. The Starbucks Reserve coffee library is hidden away behind a pivoting full-height wall of 1200 bags of Starbucks Reserve Coffee. The space houses a collection of books on the geography, flora and fauna of Starbucks coffee-growing regions, and features a hand-painted siren. An inside-outside fireplace brings warmth to those gathered in the room, and visitors enjoying the patio outside.

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“When we were designing the space, we wanted to create layers of experiences and understanding – something new to discover,” adds Kenna Giuzio, senior store concept designer for Starbucks. “I hope with each visit, our customers will come away with a new story of Starbucks.”

The new cafe also features several new menu items, including Nitro Draft Latte, Spiced Ginger Cold Brew on tap, and new espresso drinks such as the Bianco Mocha.

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