(Moscow) “So far no difference”: After the withdrawal of the American coffee chain Starbucks from Russia in response to the offensive in Ukraine, a first Russian “Stars Coffee” opened its doors in Moscow on Friday.
Posted at 6:34 am
“Why STARS? Because the new brand brings together the stars of gastronomy,” explain Russian rapper Timati and restaurateur Anton Pinski, who acquired 130 Starbucks restaurants on Russian territory at the end of July, in a press release.
Instead of a revolution, they intend to preserve the recipe that made the American chain’s success, between the baristas who write the customers’ names on the cups and the “lattes” and other customizable “frappuccinos”.
Even the logo is nearly identical: brown has been added to the traditional colors of the American chain – green and white – and the little mermaid has been replaced by a girl in a “kokoshnik”, the traditional Russian headdress.
But Stars Coffee assures us: the syrups for the coffee are now made locally and the menu of dishes and desserts will be completely redesigned by new chefs to offer a “better than ever” quality.
Unlike Russia’s McDonald’s (“Vkousno i totchka”), which opened with great fanfare in June, Stars Coffee didn’t launch a major advertising campaign for the opening of its first restaurant on Novy Arbat Street in the center of the Russian capital.
A modest official ceremony for a few celebrities and a handful of journalists was held on Thursday evening, with the general public invited from Friday.
Arina, a 20-year-old student who emerges from the café with a mug in hand, told AFP she doesn’t see any “differences: the taste is the same anyway, the inside and everything else is the same”.
However, the coffee is “different,” says Anton, a 35-year-old restaurant worker. “Different, but good,” he adds.
Ekaterina, another 25-year-old customer, is more cautious: “I miss Starbucks because I have a collection of cups and mugs. This cafe could also offer some good but right now it’s hard to know.”
All of the chain’s cafes are scheduled to open in Russia by the end of September, according to the owners.
About 80% of the roughly 2,000 employees who worked for Starbucks have agreed to stay with the new chain, according to the same source.
Starbucks, which temporarily closed its 130 namesake facilities in Russia following the start of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine on February 24, announced in late May that it had made the decision to leave its soil for good.
The American chain opened its first café there in 2007 and operated it there through a partner, a Kuwaiti group, which owned and managed the licensed facilities.
After February 24 and the introduction of economic sanctions, many large Western companies and brands left Russia for ethical reasons or difficulties in doing business there.
After more than 30 years of presence in this country and with around 850 restaurants and 62,000 employees, McDonald’s announced its final exit in mid-May and sold its local activities, but not the brand name, to a Russian businessman.