Howard Schultz, executive chairman of Starbucks, joined 1,265 partners in China Wednesday for a Starbucks Partner Open Forum in Shanghai. The event, which included partners from the Shanghai Support Center and district and store managers from Shanghai, Zhenjiang and Jiangsu Provinces, marked the beginning of a new chapter for the company in China.
Last week, Starbucks announced it was assuming full ownership of the 1,300 Starbucks stores in 25 cities in the three provinces to make Starbucks full store portfolio to 2,800 stores across Mainland China. (Previously, 50 percent had been owned by Uni-President Enterprises Corporation and President Chain Store Corporation.) China is Starbucks’ largest international market and is opening more than 500 stores a year there, creating 10,000 jobs annually.
In December, Starbucks will be opening a Reserve Roastery in Shanghai. It will be only the second in the world, following the Seattle Reserve Roastery, which opened in 2014. The new 30,000 square-foot space will honor “coffee innovation as a modern-day Willy Wonka experience, where customers are only feet away from the theater and artistry of our coffee craft,” said Schultz last year when plans for the Shanghai Roastery were announced.
At the Partner Open Forum, Schultz and Belinda Wong, chief executive officer of Starbucks China, welcomed a standing-room only crowd. The partners were led in a group coffee tasting by the new Shanghai Roastery team and Schultz and others went into the audience to greet partners and answer questions during a Q&A.