Starbucks CEO on new stores and overcoming Covid-19

The local Starbucks business is gearing up for a busy 2021.

After what was a disruptive 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, affecting the company’s sales revenue as borders remained closed, Starbucks is looking ahead to brighter days and more store openings.

Owned by Kiwi investment company Tahua Partners, which also owns the local Burger King business, Starbucks is in expansion mode and actively looking to increase its portfolio.

The business currently has 24 cafes nationwide spread across 12 cities and plans to open three more; one each in Britomart, Albany and Manakau in the first half of the year.

Starbucks chief executive Charles Belcher says the brand would open more stores in the second half of the year, although it does not have a set target number or further confirmed locations.

“There are no more confirmed sites just yet but we’re definitely looking for more around the country,” Belcher said, talking to the Herald exclusively.

“[Over the next five years] we’ll continue to look to grow at a similar rate at how we’re looking to grow in 2021, we’re going to be more driven by finding great locations.”

The local licensee has for the past two years under new ownership been undergoing refurbishment of all of its outlets and hopes to have this complete in three years’ time.

In that time it has also opened new outlets in Bayfair, Botany Town Centre and Newmarket.

More recently it has renovated its flagship store on Auckland’s Queen St, which serves over 1000 people daily.

Following the shift to increasing flexi-working, Starbucks is also actively looking for locations to open more suburban outlets.

Belcher says the company-run chain will likely surpass the 30-store mark next year.

It plans to refurbish another five to six stores as part of its store transformation programme and launch its digital offering, Starbucks Rewards.

It will also be following the lead of the global business towards sustainability commitments, including switching to paper straws, and aiming to have all of its consumer packaging recyclable or compostable by the end of 2021.

“We’re looking at meaningful ways that we can move the dial to do the right thing, more and more customers are looking at businesses to do that.”

While the community is Covid-free, there are still challenges ahead for the hospitality sector, including when the borders will open to allow the return of international visitors. Like other hospitality operators, Starbucks’ revenue is still down as a result of no tourists and international students.

Belcher says the brand spent much of last year analysing how consumer patterns had changed and figuring out what were short-term and long-term shifts.

“We’re excited about the opportunities but we’re being cautious in our approach.”

Starbucks employs more than 300 staff. Last year it went through 40,000 kilograms of espresso beans and says its Caramel Macchiato remains New Zealand’s favourite Starbucks coffee.

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