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Starbucks Partners with Alibaba in Opening AR Roastery

Starbucks Partners with Alibaba in Opening AR Roastery

Starbucks launched this new type of store to seek an edge in the crowded market, and to differentiate from its image as the commercial street corner coffee shop. Starbucks already operates more than 3,000 stores in the country and 2,000 more by 2021.

On Tuesday, Starbucks opened the 30,000-square-foot Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai. Customers at this attractive outlet settled on the West Nanjing Road shopping strip, now can watch beans being roasted, sample high-end brews and use a Starbucks augmented-reality digital app to interact with the store. Roastery customers are invited to immerse themselves in the first Starbucks augmented reality (AR) experience - accessible through the custom-designed Roastery digital web-app platform or on Alibaba's Taobao app.

The success of the Seattle Roastery, which opened in late 2014, demonstrated to Starbucks the potential for more upscale locations and provided a blueprint for the other Roasteries in the works around the world. "We can build new stores in China for decades and still have [an] opportunity for growth there". The store has more than 400 employees and can serve up to 550 people at a time, according to the Seattle-based company. And if such a thing exists, the new Shanghai shop is probably it.

China is critical for Starbucks.

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Customers can use Alibaba's site to book coffee tasting experiences and buy special "Reserve" products. "We have over 600 stores in Shanghai", Schultz said. Starbuck will open another Roastery in Milan, Italy in 2018 and Chicago in 2019. It's home to three "coffee experience bars", one of which is 88 feet long, making it the longest Starbucks coffee bar in the world.

The roaster also plans to roll out mobile ordering and delivery of drinks and store goods in China, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson said in an interview in Shanghai.

But despite all of Shanghai Roastery's features, it's still a coffee shop at heart. Last quarter, China posted an 8 percent increase, compared with a 3 percent gain in the US, excluding impacts from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

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