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Inside Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery Seattle flagship

Starbucks reserve roasteryFantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.

Dr. Seuss

In 2014, over $10 billion was spent on beverages at Starbucks. If the strategy following on from this is to excite and execute better than your competitor, what does a global player like Starbucks do to play their part to innovate and reenergise their customers globally?

Over the past few years the coffee giant has not only continued to feed our caffeine addictions, but has also been feeding consumer desires for a more experiential and seamless retail experience. Incorporating new technology in the customer experience and diversifying its retail formats, Starbucks was recently voted in the top 10 retail innovators from around the world by Ebeltoft Group.

The retail format that really caught our attention was the Seattle flagship: Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room. In December 2014, Starbucks crafted a one-of-a-kind coffee experience by opening its flagship Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, a 1500 square metre store, mixing Willy Wonka glitz with extreme coffee culture. Officially the world’s largest Starbucks, the store is LEED-certified and features several coffee bars, a shop, stand-alone Italian restaurant and a two-store library.

Customers can engage with associates and see every step of the coffee-brewing process, creating a more upscale Starbucks experience than offered at traditional stores. There is an experience bar geared towards the experiential coffee consumers, who can explore the Roastery’s eight methods of brewing on display.

With visibility of the roasting centre throughout, the store also communicates transparency within the supply chain. This Starbucks flagship produces, roasts and packages around 1.4 million pounds of coffee per year directly from the store. According to our American partners, consolidation of small-batch roasting will allow Starbucks to expand its Reserve coffee line to 1500 locations globally, as well as open at least 100 stores designed to highlight these rare coffees exclusively.

Twin Probat roasters fill the space with the aroma of good roast and supply the ‘Scoop Bar’, where customers can choose among a selection of varieties and exclusive roasts for sale available by the ounce. The bean roasting is fully on display and designed as a centrepiece to the action inside the room. Then, of course, there’s the main bar, where customers can still get their straightforward Starbucks experience and choose a standard brew.

The Starbucks Roastery serves as a gathering spot for both coffee connoisseurs and Starbucks lovers. Starbucks is attempting to create traffic and buzz with new beverage concoctions, as well as integrate upscale amenities like designed foods and craft coffees, targeting a more affluent and diverse clientele. While Starbucks has expanded into everything from juices to grocery store goods, the company continues to capitalise on its most important asset – coffee.

High-end coffee has continued to evolve over the last five years and Starbucks continues to innovate its business and grow its customer base. Expanding its brand with an innovative store that takes coffee from production to sale, Starbucks involves customers in the entire process. It is the first of its kind for the brand – retail, development and product blended into a single space. Since opening the store, Starbucks has integrated the higher-end Roastery and reserve blends into its store for customers seeking a unique spin on the traditional Pike Place of other go-to Starbucks roasts.

Looking at retail formats and experiences can be limited when we stay within category thinking. Far more innovative and rich experiences can often be found when the Willy Wonka approach is not just fantasy.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group, Australian elected Ebeltoft member, and can be contacted on (02) 9460 2882 or Vikki Weston, co-author of this column, is part of Retail Doctor Group’s Retail Insights team and can be contacted via email at

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