Starbucks Is Trying Really Hard To Fit In With The Cool European Kids

Now that Americans basically use Starbucks as a public restroom where you can also buy burned tasting coffee, it seems the mega chain is trying its best to impress our cool kindred across the pond. They’re spending millions in a new campaign to convince the Europeans that they aren’t just “impersonal,” “mediocre” and “expensive” coffee.

The New York Times got to the heart of this Euro-distaste for the ‘Bucks, speaking to one Parisienne who summed it all up for the entire continent.

“I never go into Starbucks; it’s impersonal, the coffee is mediocre, and it’s expensive,” she said, while sitting at one of those cool cafes you see in the moving pictures. “For us, it’s like another planet.”

Indeed! Which is why Starbucks is making over hundreds of its stores on the Continent to try to woo discerning Europeans over to their side, with different beverages and blends. Europe is particularly hard, because unlike in New York or L.A. where caffeinated hordes troll around clutching venti skim lattes in their hands, coffeehouse across the Atlantic are deeply entrenched in the “sit and sip” culture.

To that end, so far, in the eight years since Starbucks has had 63 French stores, they’ve never turned a profit.

That is what you might call an uphill battle, no?

In Europe, Starbucks Adjusts to a Cafe Culture [New York Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. u1itn0w2day says:

    Why not. They minus well learn how to exploit different markets when sbux burnout cools the US business. As much as many European countries love coffee I don’t think Sbux will find the going as easy once the honeymoon stage has left the customer.

  2. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    It’s funny how this fails in other countries, yet stuff like McDonald’s and KFC are (from what I hear) pretty profitable.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      That’s the exact point. They consider it or take for what it is: an over priced fast food place. Just because it’s expensive or more costly coffee doesn’t make it better coffee. They’re more sophisticated consumers than the sheeple here in need of a caffiene & sugar fix.

      • TheMansfieldMauler says:

        They’re more sophisticated consumers

        There’s nothing more sophisticated about eurotrash consumers. They’re just able to out-pretentious the pretentiousness of Starbucks.

      • SuperSnackTime says:

        you have no idea what sheeple means or how to use it

    • vorpalette says:

      Starbucks, KFC, and Coldstone Creamery are on every corner in Shangai (or Beijing, I can’t remember). A family friend travels there frequently, and, while he’s never eaten at KFC or Coldstone there, he says Starbucks always has huge lines.

    • SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

      continental mcdonalds tend to be 2x the size of the ones in the us, in my experience. diners tend to eat and linger over the meal. dining and drinking and socializing are national pastimes of the Drench, Belgians, Dutch, and that whole general region. its awesome.

    • rpm773 says:

      Heh. These sophisticates are the same people who can’t get enough of Jerry Lewis.

      Or maybe they can…I don’t really know or care. I just like trotting out that stereotype.

  3. John says:

    Starbucks should play up the ‘we use bugs in our frappachino’ angle. Perhaps that will be avante garde enough for the Europeans?

  4. rav3 says:

    i dunno in the rest of the world but the UK has tons of these so called “impersonal” places such as costa and caffe noir and even starbucks and they all are packed all day. specially when our quaint, personal coffee shops are full of hippsters and posers and you cant get a table.

    • winstonthorne says:

      I LOVE COSTA COFFEE!!!!! It’s a gajillion times better than Starbucks both for coffee and pastries.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        A large, undefined number. Could refer to several, or a massive amount. Used in extreme over-exaggeration for humorous or emphatic purposes

        1). Me: there’s like a gajillion stars, we’re so infintesimal.
        Friend: dude, infintesimal isn’t a word
        Me: yuh huh. *nods*
        Friend: STFU and pass the pipe PLZTHX

        2). The amount of money (in dollars) that Zack owes Nilan, because Zack bet that the radius of convergence was 1/2, when it was really 2. Zack then tried to bet on a coin flip to win his gajillion back, but instead just lost another gajillion.

        I now have two gajillion dollars, courtesy of Zack

    • Coelacanth says:

      Yes, that was my experience as well. That and a ton of Cafe Neros all over the place. The difference between Costa / Nero / SBUX was virtually nil (though I did like the concept of Dark Chocolate Mochas at Nero.)

      Plus, there seemed to be quite a strong Starbucks presence in Paris as well… A few in the touristy areas seemed packed, although I do recall stumbling upon one that seemed largely vacant.

  5. Blueskylaw says:

    Maybe Starbucks can introduce the magic taste of ready brew (a brilliant name for instant coffee) Via to the European continent where they don’t know ANYTHING about coffee.


  6. Chipzilla says:

    As one of the European kindred I have to say good luck Starbucks, but you’re a bit late to the party.

    Oh, and your coffee tastes like crap…

  7. Herah says:

    I was in Paris last week – the Starbucks were all crowded and the coffee was cheaper than the neighboring shops every time. Plus the cups are the same size as we’re used to here, and TINY in every other Parisian coffee shop. Not as good, granted, but popular, bigger and cheaper.

    • Browsing says:

      I’m hoping the same for when Starbucks expands in Sweden, coffee shops already charge a ton for crappy small cups, I’m willing to pay the same or a little more for crappy Starbucks.

  8. HannahK says:

    If you don’t know the difference between the taste of bold coffee and burnt coffee, I don’t think you have the right to assert that European coffeehouses are any better or worse than Sbux.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      Ethiopian coffee is bold, Starbucks coffee is burnt. Bold implies a strong flavor, burnt coffee happens when you blend beans before roasting them and roast them all at the same time and temp, hence about 1/4 of the beans are roasted well and the rest get burned and make a burnt flavored coffee that Starbucks marketing and PR flacks have convinced you is bold.

  9. CubeRat says:

    I’m sorry, I just can’t get my head around the French calling Starbuck’s “impersonal”.

    I don’t know if it’s the employees that work in these Starbucks – as I must say, all the Starbuck’s I’ve been to in the US and HK are very polite and friendly. The only other thing that comes to mind is that the employees don’t hover over you and allow you to dring/eat in peace.

    I’m actually being converted to Starbucks now. I never liked their coffee in the past, but the Pike Place brand and the new blonds are quite good. I can’t abide the dark roast or French roast coffee beans – it doesn’t matter who brews it.

  10. P=mv says:

    Good luck, Starbucks, I hope you fail miserably. Your coffee is overpriced swill that is loaded down with sweetener to disguise it’s poor quality and bad taste. Unfortunately, I am probably too late with my well-wishing.

  11. bhr says:

    Burnt tasting… Not burned tasting. If you scorched your mouth drinking it you could say it was burned tasting coffee, but the flavor would be described as “burnt.”

    I’m hardly a language expert, but that one drives me nutty.

  12. denverite says:


    Starbucks has been a lifesaver many times for us parents traveling with kids through Europe. As we don’t have time to leisurely sit in a local cafe & savor for hours — we need decent coffee to-go, large & make it quick. The kids need clean restrooms without disapproving looks.
    Nonfat milk or sugar substitutes are rare commodities not usually found in other coffee shops.

    So we choose our battles and save the more authentic cultural experiences for bigger things. Just give us that large morning coffee we can walk with, quick, and the rest of the day is good.

  13. quail says:

    Starbuck’s slide started when they removed the nipples from their mermaid logo. Way to cowtow to the savages, Starbucks…

    They do have some good coffees, they just don’t brew them often in the store. And the choices at my local Starbucks for one of their pour overs never includes my favorite, Yukon Gold. And Pike’s Place? Seriously? How I wish there was a Caribou Coffee House around here so that I could get some good Peaberry coffee once a year.

  14. beaner603 says:

    I was in Paris 2 weeks ago. I knew Starbucks would be a reliable place to find free “wee-fee”, so I loaded up my gold card before my trip. Was totally bummed to find out they wouldn’t accept it any of the the 3 locations I visited during my stay. Accepting Starbucks cards for payment worldwide would seem to be a good place to start if they want to attract loyal customers in the overseas market.

  15. majortom1981 says:

    Ever since i started going to a french creperie here on long island , i have hated starbucks coffee. Now we even have a coffee shop that roasts its own beans and gets beans from all over the world in. ITs 20x better then starbucks .

    The funny part is starbucks said right out to the village that we are too good for your village and will never open up there. So this coffee house came in and is ALWAYS busy. Even people from outside the village come because they have never had coffee coffee that was roasted that day before.

  16. isileth says:

    McDonald’s in Italy are very different from those in the USA and they brought something different that wasn’t well known with an affordable price with respect to the price of similar food.
    On the other hand Starbuck doesn’t sell something that might be considered a coffee in Italy.
    In Italy you can have a cappuccino or an espresso in half a minute, or less.
    The only time I had the bad idea to order a latte in New York at Starbucks it took 10 minutes for too much too hot dirty water (it didn’t taste like milk or anything related to milk) in a paper cup and a foam so thick that you should have used a hammer to put sugar in it, not to mention that fact that it was really really expensive.
    Why should I spend 5 times more for something that tastes so bad?
    The only time I went to a Starbuck in Europe, it was to use the free wi-fi and I ordered a tea.

  17. Senator says:

    I find this hard to believe. Cool kids in Europe?

  18. brneyedgrl80 says:

    So…. In this article European just means France?

    I know that at least in England, Starbucks is doing pretty well with the Gen X age group and younger. My understanding from my friends across the pond is that coffee is displacing tea with the younger generations. But I wouldn’t say that England represents an entire continent.

  19. bluecoyote says:

    Starbucks, though ‘burnt’ , is far from the worst coffee I’ve had and still ranks well above about 25% of the independent coffeehouses I’ve been to (but well, well, well below the best.) Seriously.

    Europe is a mixed bag for coffee. As far as commodity coffee goes, it beats the hell out of Nescafe, for sure.

  20. nautox says:

    2 years ago I went to Europe and the coffee at the cafe’s is so amazing. In 5 countries I saw a total of 4 Starbucks: Why? Because no real european would drink that crap.