So Starbucks is officially in South Africa, with three stores being launched last year (Rosebank, Mall of Africa and Pretoria) and reported hopes to at least double that this year.
They've used their powerful brand to begin the influencing of many Gauteng coffee drinkers to more decorated coffee beverages, like the S'mores and Frappuccino combo, and pumps of flavoured syrups with sparkly marketing and fabulous service, as the US brands continue their push into the southern most tip of Africa. And it appears that it has been successful so far, perhaps not as flashy or as quick a take over as was expected, their trademark style worldwide to open as many stores as possible. Taste Holdings have obviously identified Gauteng as their target market for the time being. Durban seeming not to have the buying power and Cape Town perhaps seems a bit overwhelming with the density of roasteries (and strong opinions), but no doubt it will happen eventually. We're still interested to see if the garage forecourt realm will be contested by the giant, as local brands like vida and Mugg & Bean find growing success in this area of the coffee industry.
The local baristas have already made an impact on a global level, with Musa Magwaza doing extremely well in their internal Barista Championships
Ishan Natalie, 3 time SA Barista Champion, has thoroughly enjoyed his time with the company so far. The job brings with it a plug in to the global Starbucks community and trends and Ishan is taking the bull by the horns.
What has been the most inspiring moment in this journey?
Photo courtesy of Ishan Natalie
There have been so many – the people I’ve trained with in the UK, the Starbucks EMEA Barista Championship, meeting Arthur Karuletwa, the list goes on. Each of these experiences were a lesson on its own. If I had to choose one, it’s the values of the company and the people who are part of it. I am very proud to work for both Taste and Starbucks. Arthur is the Sustainability Director and he does amazing work with farmers. Meeting Howard Schultz was also an inspiring moment.
Have there been any surprising things you've discovered from working with this global brand?
How a global brand manages to deliver the same values in each market. People (customer and partners) are always at the forefront in everything the brand does. The humility of such a global brand, the partners and especially Howard Schultz is amazing.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced in your new role?
I would say being in a role that took me out of my comfort zone and expertise. I’m first and foremost a coffee person – I love connecting and being close to coffee. I have shifted my focus on being more operational, which has allowed me to grow professionally. I still find time to spend time with coffee and sharing my knowledge and skills is rewarding.
What has the reception from the Gauteng public been like?
We have received an overwhelming response. Customers are seeing Starbucks stores as a destination, they enjoy the interaction with the baristas and the handcrafted beverages.
How is the Reserve concept going in the stores?
The Reserve concept is growing. Customers love the engagement with baristas, experiencing coffee tastings and getting a choice of manual brews by choice of any 3 of our limited time offer small-lot coffees. The Speciality Espresso menu also offers drinks that are exclusive to Starbucks Reserve.
What are the big plans for 2017?
We will continue to grow our offering and employ innovative ways to drive coffee education amongst consumers.