In the past year, Bogotá became familiar with the Starbucks brand, the unique design of each and every one of its nine coffee outlets across the capital, as well as the personalized service of having a barista “call out your name” with that latte, Americano or Venti to go.

When the Seattle-based coffee giant took the decision to open its first store in Colombia last year, on July 16th in a three-floor venue overlooking the 93 Park, many wondered if this multinational would win over potential clients by offering premium homegrown coffee in the land of coffee. Could the business survive the long haul in a marketplace dominated by a man and a mule?

Could the business survive the long haul in a marketplace dominated by a man and a mule?

For Jaime Press, director of operations Starbucks Colombia, part of the success comes down to offering a “third place” option to spend time, relax, meet up with friends and clients, which is neither the “first place” home, nor the “second place” office.

Starbucks opened its first store in Bogotá
Starbucks opened its first Colombian store at the Parque de la 93 in Bogotá. (Andres Calderon/Provided)

Anyone who has traveled overseas, understands the importance of finding a Starbucks in order to connect to free WiFi, catch one’s breath from the shopping and sightseeing, and enjoy a space that is familiar and welcoming while far from home. At Starbucks your time is valued and you’re never pressured to keep on buying.

“Each Starbucks has its own planning methodology and works closely with the community,” said Press. “There is a genuine connection with the community.”

Starbucks is no stranger to opening up new and demanding markets around with world, and Colombia was no exception. “The response was excellent. Far better than expected,” said the Cali-born director.

As the company prepares to launch its 10th retail store in the city, overlooking the Usaquén Park, Press exalts the acceptance of Colombians (and foreigners) to Starbucks, even though the company has been involved with the country for more than four decades and remains the largest purchaser in the world of premium Arabica from Colombia. In 2012, Starbucks got involved with a Farmers Support Center in Manizales, Caldas, to deliver training, agronomy support and sustainable environmental standards with its Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices.

When Starbucks opened its first store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market back in 1971 Colombian coffee was on the menu. Today the company operates in 66 countries, has 23,000 stores, and Colombian coffee is still a big, bestseller. “In Colombia we plant, harvest, roast, package and serve Colombian coffee,” states Press.

Forty-three years of building a local supply chain has impacted the lives of 70,000 Colombian coffee farmers; and as the company expands within the capital, the impact of sales will continue to filter down to communities and the people whose livelihoods depend on coffee.

Clients can choose from five different varieties of Colombian coffee, including the Starbucks Reserve, Colombia El Peñol, a single-origin Colombia Nariño, Colombia Espresso and Colombia Espresso Decaf. Two stores in the city, the Starbucks Reserve (Zona G and Parque 93) offer a premium selection of world coffees for those who crave more choice.

On the eve of Usaquén, with store No. 10, Press stresses Starbucks’ commitment to nurturing human values: treating customers well, offering an essential “third place” for work or leisure, and developing the Colombia brand with specialty items.

So next time you reach for that souvenir mug or simply need to connect with a Frappucino, remember that your Starbucks experience is only “the last ten feet”. The coffee you enjoy has traveled a far greater distance, one rarely seen by the consumer, but whose impact transcends product and price. “Starbucks is an experience where you live a genuine human connection,” states Press. “Starbucks Colombia is here to stay.”

1 COMMENT

  1. well done for Starbucks. Colombia needs some healthy competitors in the coffee retail sector. Monopolies continue to cripple the country’s competitiveness.

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