Starbucks goes artisan

 
For decades, retail bakers across the country have viewed Starbucks as a business model to applaud, but not necessarily to compete against. In some cases, Starbucks was a customer; retailers like Seattle’s Top Pot Doughnuts once supplied Starbucks with Old Fashioned and other donuts at thousands of Starbucks locations.
 
But now everything at Starbucks is changing. The mega retailer with more than 24,000 stores in 73 countries is going to bake at store level for the first time ever.     
 
In mid-July, Starbucks Corporation announced a pivotal new role as global licensee and investor in the Italian restaurant Princi, a boutique bakery and café founded by acclaimed artisan baker Rocco Princi in 1986. The investment team, which includes Milan-based Angel Lab and Pekepan Investments, will focus on expanding the number of standalone Princi locations worldwide, in addition to making Princi the exclusive food purveyor at the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Rooms in Shanghai and New York. The New York Roastery will open in 2018.
 
“We have never baked in our stores in 45 years. But all of that will change with the creation of this unique partnership,” says Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman and chief executive office. “Rocco and his team at Princi possess a passion for handcrafted food and artisanal baked goods that mirrors how I feel about our coffee.”
 
Since the acquisition of La Boulange in 2012, Starbucks reinvented its food portfolio at more than 14,000 stores in the United States and Canada, and will continue to bring customers authentic French homemade specialties, delivering culinary artistry on a grand scale.
 
In addition to the expansion of standalone Princi specialty stores and inclusion of fresh baking in Starbucks Roasteries, the company will partner with Rocco Princi to bring a premium food experience to its new Reserve only stores starting in 2017. Currently, Starbucks offers Reserve coffee in nearly 2,000 locations in 30 countries.  
 
Announced earlier this year, the Roastery concept brings to life Starbucks line of premium, small-lot reserve coffees in a retail space that allows the roasting, brewing and craft of coffee to take center stage.
 
“I can think of no better pairing for our most premium coffee experience and am excited by the possibilities we envision in Princi food elevating every daypart – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – in Starbucks Roasteries and Reserve Stores,” Schultz adds. “The attention to detail, the care invested in selecting the ingredients and the artistry of preparation is second only to the service Rocco offers customers inside his Princi stores.”
 
Known for its artisan breads created from traditional family recipes, Princi’s five locations have become beloved experiences for customers across Milan and London.
 
Every detail is considered in a Princi store, ranging from the minimalist aesthetic designed by architect Claudio Silvestrin to the uniforms created by a renowned Italian designer. In addition, Princi locations are well-known as 24-hour operations, offering customers everything from light breakfast to impressive dinners made in a beechwood fired oven. 
 
“As a young man, I dreamed of the opportunity to bring traditional Italian baking to customers in my country but when I opened our location in London, I realized how much we could also offer an international clientele,” says Rocco Princi, founder of Princi Restaurant. “I have long admired Starbucks, the values Howard has imbedded into his organization and we are honored to be a part of bringing to life an entirely new retail environment with the Roasteries.” 
 
At his bakeries, an abundance of baked items are pulled from wood-fire ovens and placed on counters before customers who contemplate their choices. Choices range from a crostata pastry loaded with dark chocolate and topped with raspberry jam, or a slice of rich tomato and mozzarella pizza that’s just been cut in a square with scissors, as well as croissants, focaccia bread and cannoncini.

 

 
The Italian artisan baker behind these hand-crafted selections is Princi, who opened his first bakery in Milan in 1986, expanded to five renowned Princi specialty stores over the years, and is now bringing his signature artisanal baked goods to all new Starbucks Roastery locations, including Shanghai and New York.
 
“You can feel the passion and craft that goes in to every morsel of food that he makes. Rocco is in his stores, behind the counter, teaching his people and delivering visually beautiful, mouthwatering food,” Schultz says. “I’ve been exposed to great culinary experiences around the world, and nothing comes close to what Rocco Princi creates.”
 

The Soul of a Baker

 

The master baker is known throughout Milan for his artisan breads made from traditional Italian recipes.

“Baking is in his soul. That’s where his recipes begin; then it comes from his heart to your hand,” says Liz Muller, vice president of Starbucks Creative and Global Design. “When I think about the texture, aroma and taste of his food, a smile comes to my face. It is extraordinary.”
 
Muller, the designer behind Starbucks Roasteries, describes Princi baked goods and Starbucks Reserve coffees as “a beautiful marriage.”
 
“What we do with our small-batch coffees is take very special beans and develop a recipe to roast them perfectly. Rocco’s artisanal approach matches the care we take with our coffees, crafted and prepared with passion and care,” she says. “There is artistry to what we both do to deliver an exceptional experience to our customers.”
 

Intentional Presentation

 

The design of Princi bakeries allows for transparency of ingredients. Customers see tomatoes, peppers and flour in bins. The intentional presentation is similar to the Starbucks Roastery environment where customers are thoughtfully immersed in the experience of coffee roasting.

 
Princi store environments are a subtle, yet significant part of the customer experience. Natural materials, marble, and earth-colored stone, set the backdrop for baked items displayed with bright, warm lighting.
 
“We’re going to be baking from scratch in our Roasteries the kind of food that perfectly complements our most premium coffee experience,” says Schultz. “We are honored to be working with Rocco Princi to bring the leading Italian artisan bakery and food purveyor, Princi, to customers around the world.”