Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks is America's most-iconic purveyor of caffeinated beverages, but an international market could become even more important to the company. Chief executive officer Howard Schultz told CNBC Thursday it won't come as a surprise if growth in China eventually surpasses Starbucks's footprint in the United States.
"I wouldn't be surprised if one day we have more stores in China than we do in the U.S.," Schultz said in an interview on the network's Closing Bell. "We've been so successful in China over many years and we're just starting to get the morning-day part — where we're educating local Chinese to drink coffee in the morning."
Schultz's comments came on the same day Starbucks announced plans for its first Roastery and Reserve Tasting Room in an international market. The new "interactive retail" location will open in Shanghai late next year, and its goal is "to allow customers in China to better understand the craft of roasting and brewing a range of Starbucks coffees."
The original Roastery and Reserve opened in Seattle in 2014, and in April the company confirmed plans for a New York City outpost. The concept calls for a much larger space than the traditional Starbucks shop — Shanghai's will take up 30,000 square feet — because it combines roasting, manufacturing, education, and retail within a single facility. Customers can watch freshly roasted beans arrive, engage with Starbucks coffee specialists and master roasters, order from specialty beverage and food menus, and partake in "some of the most unique, small-lot coffees brewed multiple ways."
Announcing the Shanghai location, Schultz said it will be "completely unique and relevant to the Chinese customer."
"The Starbucks Roastery environment honors coffee innovation as a modern day Willy Wonka experience, where customers are only feet away from the theater and artistry of our coffee craft," the CEO said in a prepared statement. "I am confident this will be one of the most highly anticipated store openings in our international markets."