Saturday, April 23, 2011

Starbucks in China: Now in Yunnan

Starbucks rapid growth is hard not to notice in some of the more metropolitan cities in China.  In cities such as Shanghai it is not difficult in some places to find several Starbucks within a 10 minute walk of each other, if not closer.  However, Starbucks has recently begun to focus much of its growth into many cities that are unfamiliar to most people outside of China.

For example, in Kunming in the new shopping complex at the bottom of these buildings:

new high rise buildings in Kunming

Is what on Thursday will be the first Starbucks to open in Yunnan, a province in Southwest China:

outside of new Starbucks in Kunming

They will also be opening two other stores in Kunming during the following month, including one at this location only a few minutes walk away:

under-construction Starbucks store

(extra bonus: take a look at the family of three all on one motor scooter, not a very uncommon sight in China)

Opening stores in Yunnan isn't significant only because of it being far from China's more developed eastern coast, but also because Starbucks late last year announced it would set up a coffee bean farm and processing facilities in Yunnan - significant for a province that doesn't receive the level of investment from foreign companies seen in many other provinces.

Although the first store wasn't yet open, staff were outside serving free samples of a caramel latte drink -- what for many was their first taste of Starbucks:

several Chinese people being offered sample drinks

I was invited inside to take look around the store while they were putting on the finishing touches and starting to clean up:

inside of Starbucks store

While much of the style is Western, there are certainly some local touches to highlight Starbucks' special association with Yunnan:

photos of local regions in Yunnan and a map of Yunnan

Although the drink menu has many similarities with those found in the US, there are some differences.  For example, similar to Dairy Queen localizing its Chinese menu with mango drinks, Starbucks also has a mango drink not typically found in US stores: the Mango Passion Fruit Frappucino.  I was told that Yunnan grown coffee would not be on the drink menu, but come September customers would be able to buy Starbucks Yunnan coffee beans in packages.

Starbucks was still looking for new employees in Kunming, including these two who were applying when I stopped by:

two girls filling out application forms

However, Starbucks wasn't taking any risks and had brought in several experienced employees from its other stores in China, as far away as Xian and Beijing, to help for a month or two, including these two Coffee Masters:

A young man who is a Coffee Master

another young man who is a Coffee Master

Starbucks' employees are expect to maintain a quality and style of service similar to Starbucks' stores in the US.  While rapidly changing, service "attitudes" in much of China are different from the US so some hands on training by experienced staff is particularly important.

Based on my experience today, it seems like Starbucks has brought in a very friendly and open group to help kickoff their new store, especially my "guide" for my brief tour who used the familiar English name "Mickey":

young lady who works at Starbucks

Finally, it appears that Starbucks isn't similar to Dairy Queen only in its decision to add mango drinks to the menu, but it also faces competition similar to that faced by Dairy Queen from Mango Queen and DU.  In another part of Kunming is:

outside of Teabucks store
Teabucks Tea Store

Yes, Teabucks.

Welcome to Kunming, Starbucks.

[UPDATE: See details about the grand opening of this Starbucks here]


  1. Hahah! I was just in Kunming and passed that "Teabucks" - on the road that turns into Wenlin Xiang I think. I was wondering why there were no Starbucks in Kunming.

  2. Yes, that's the road. Some wonderful places to eat & drink around there.