Saturday, February 20, 2010

Starbucks opened in Sweden

Lena and I.

So, the biggest news (for me) of this week was without a doubt that Starbucks finally came to Sweden. Sort of.

It's one store, and it's at Arlanda airport. It's run by SSP which is a company that also has numerous franchises in other airports and train stations. Basically, they focus on being in places where people are on the go. While I'm a huge Starbucks fan and would gladly see a lot more locations in Sweden, it's not very likely to happen. That is not because, as some of my commenters seem to think, "because the coffee sucks", but because one thing that makes Starbucks special won't go over very well in Sweden. And it's not that we already have a strong coffee culture.

See - at every Starbucks I've been in, there's a lot of staff behind the counter. Four, five, six happy baristas, ready to take your order. In Swedish coffee shops, there's one, or possibly two. (And they're usually not smiling, by the way.) Why? Salaries. And work laws. It's just not the same here, and *that* is a major reason why you'll probably never find a Starbucks in every corner.

I'm still hoping, don't get me wrong. I would gladly trade every single Wayne's Coffee, Robert's Coffee, Coffeehouse by George and all other Swedish franchises for Starbucks. But it's not likely to happen. But Sweden will probably see a new actor soon, since one of our leading chains - Espresso House - most likely will be for sale once they've opened enough locations. It's the one chain I do like quite a bit, because they also seem to train their baristas to a fairly consistent standard. As for my very favorite latte in Sweden? Da Matteo in Gothenburg. Please open in Stockholm, ok?


Anyway. For now, there's one Starbucks in Sweden, and that's in Arlanda airport. It's in terminal 5, and it's in the secure area so you have to actually travel somewhere to go there. (Boohoo!) It has the same coffee menu as everywhere else and to be honest, I didn't get a very good look at the pastries and sandwiches. We were given lots of samples though - a delicious glazed lemon cake, a chocolate chip muffin, blueberry muffins, chocolate muffins, tiger cake, sandwiches with goat's cheese & tomato and really yummy open-faced shrimp & egg sandwiches on rye bread.

My photos suck. I'm sorry. It was dark. I was excited to be there, and didn't spend a lot of time trying to snap better shots. Sorry.

We were encouraged to order as much as we wanted to but we didn't manage more than two drinks each - I had a mocha frappuccino and a caramel macchiato, Lena had a caramel frappuccino and a vanilla latte. I'd have ordered a decaf vanilla latte too, if I had had the time. We also got to join in on a coffee tasting, and try six coffees from different regions. (And got little cute coffee passports, with stickers.) I really, really enjoyed the coffee from Sumatra - will look out for something like that in my grocery store. It was really rich and with a strong aftertaste - yum!

Titus was there too, of course. He loved it, and seems to really like the smell of coffee. (I let him sniff one of the little cups with tasting coffee, and he opened his mouth, eager to try it. Um, maybe next time.) The store managed offered him a babyccino - but I think we'll wait a little while. He's a bit young to get hooked, like his mom.


Anonymous said...

In what ways are the american work laws better? Do they have higher salaries?

As I understand it Starbucks Coffee cannot open here because I work laws dont permit ppl to be used like trash?

Anne said...

I'm most definitely not saying that the American work laws are better - but they are different, and in some ways, allowing for a more flexible job market. Swedish workers have much more job security and in general, higher wages. And that also means that companies can't hire as many people. So, in short - fewer people might have jobs, but those that do earn better and have much more security.

la reine margot said...

This is my first time leaving a comment, not because I don't enjoy the other posts, but because I think this one in particular is a really interesting case study in culture. What I mean is that I've never actually heard a fellow American get excited about the opening of a Starbucks. In the beginning, maybe Starbucks shops were a more welcome sight, but I was too young to drink coffee when they first burst on the scene, so I'm not sure. All I know is that now Starbucks is seen in a fairly negative light. For one, there have been controversies about unfair trade and aggressive agricultural practices in the coffee-producing countries that supply the franchise. Then there's the idea that, like Walmart, Starbucks push smaller local businesses out of the way and don't even treat their own workers very well to boot. I'm not an expert. I'm just saying that this is the general feeling I get from personal conversations and the media. Not that it prevents people from buying coffee at Starbucks, even people like myself who don't totally agree with their practices. And it's hard to criticize Starbucks' business model because the American version of capitalism promotes a "dog eat dog" private market.

I am not saying any of this because I disapprove of Starbucks in Sweden. I'm just pointing out that your reaction is not what I expected from a European (which just exposes my own stereotypes, good or bad) and has made me more curious about different European responses to the chain. I have a feeling, for example, that the French would be less open to Starbucks. As of July 2009 (the only stat I could find quickly) there were 50 Starbucks in France, and most in more metropolitan places where there would be lots of tourists (landmarks in Paris, Disneyland, etc.). I just don't think Starbucks captures what the French love about coffee shops. The average French person goes to coffee shops to socialize, not work on a laptop and they go there to drink espresso, not frappacinos. At least, for now. But maybe that will change as Gen Y (me) and Z experience and adapt to a more globalized, homogenized market.

Also, I'm sorry this comment is so long. :\

Kenon Thompson said...

Ahh the great taste of Starbucks! Also the atmosphere of relaxing and reading the newspapers and blogsof the day. Makes me want to go to the one up the street from me now!

Well, I'm glad that there is a Starbucks there, hopefully there are more built there outside of the airport. If not then I know to stock up in Terminal 5 before I leave the airport when I make a visit!

Anonymous said...

I don't quite understand your line of reasoning, to be honest. Here in Vienna we have a very long (and famous) coffee house tradition, we have very strict work laws and we still have lots of Starbucks places. Some of those had to close down again but quite a number of them have been approved of by tourists and locals alike. Although they are not half as beautiful or half as cozy as your traditional Viennese coffee house, I'm rather fond of those Starbucks places. They offer an international, smoke-free, child-friendly environment and have something Viennese coffee houses will never be able to offer: friendly and welcoming staff... And I LOVE their Christmas blend which I buy every year and which is always delicious.

la reine margot said...

I am definitely not saying that there aren't reasons to like Starbucks. It's a huge business in the US and obviously the company has had success abroad as well. I just have never come across someone in the US or in France who was genuinely excited about a Starbucks opening (as opposed to a McDonald's opening) and was wondering if maybe there are some cultural differences underlying the different responses. I truly hope I didn't offend anyone because that was not my intention.

Anne said...

La Reine Margot - I think part of the appeal is that it *is* American and chain-y. I would also be super excited about a Taco Bell, a Krispy Kreme or a Dunkin Donuts. Not because it's quality food, but because it's something we most definitely don't have ourselves. The Starbucks rep said something like "we're not looking to take over the existing market, but rather to expand it" and while that's easy to say I think they're actually doing that, too. She specifically mentioned Paris, too - she said that they were quite nervous about opening there, but that it's now one of their strongest markets. And if they have a bunch in Vienna, maybe there's hope for Stockholm, too :)

Anonymous said...

Wayne´s coffee and Robert´s coffe are in no way swedish franchises, they´re both from Finland!

Anne said...

Really? Robert's coffee is indeed started in Finland, but Wayne's is not, according to their own website. (Started in 1994 by three Swedes, who still own (partly I guess) the company.)

Olsonmiki said...

Hi - I'm an American, and my son was actually trained by Starbucks when he worked at a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I think what we Americans like about Starbucks is that it's a consistent product. As much as I like going to the independent shops, I can never predict how the coffee is going to taste. For all our big talk about adventure, we Americans like some things to be predictable. As to the friendly staff, they certainly aren't paid as well, but they do get tips. What I DON'T like about American coffee shops, is that, as somebody said here, people bring their laptops and work, and when you talk with your friends, they glare, like it's a library. I loved talking and people-watching in European coffee shops.

Anne, my husband and I love your site. He's of Swedish descent (as many people in Minnesota are) and proud of it. Please keep blogging!

Alexandra said...

Starbuckes!!! Just love it! I always stack up on their beans whenever I'm travelling and make it at home... but its not the same as one of their latte machiato....
Let's hope it gets situated at a lot of places in Sweden soon!

Alexandra, Småland

Honeybee said...

Get a first class ticket, have coffee at the airport Starbucks and then get a refund! Just joking, of course.

Btw, Switzerland has some of the highest salaries in Europe and there are Starbucks shops all over!

I never used to be a big fan, I find them too uniform and the coffee is ridiculously overpriced but ended up at Starbucks just this morning anyway - with a newborn in tow there are not many places you can go to!

Olsonmiki said...

Starbucks has a terrible reputation for destroying the small coffee shop chains in the places they plan to build. True or not, I always feel a little guilty when I buy my cup. I said to my daughter when I had to hit the drive-through one morning, "Yes, I know I'll go to hell for it, but at least Starbucks will be there."

She said, "Mom, it's Starbucks. It'll be in heaven and purgatory, too." : )

Anonymous said...

Well this is funny considering now in stockholm we have like 5 starbucks with 3 opening up in the next month... as an american who moved to sweden though I have got to say, espresso house is a lot lot better.

Anne said...

I agree actually, they have a bunch of shops now, but I do prefer the coffee at EspressoHouse. Not too fond of the baked goods at either place though.