The popular U.S. coffee shop chain Starbucks has begun an ambitious push into the Latin American market, opening its first shop in the region this week in Mexico City.
They are steaming up the milk for the lattes, cappuccinos and other special coffee drinks offered at Starbucks. Judging by the long lines, the operation is already a success.
Mexico City Starbucks manager Ivan Alvarado says customers are trying the full range of Starbucks offerings.
He says they are drinking cappuccinos, lattes and other drinks as well as sampling some of the store's pastries. He says the featured coffee of the day is Mexican Shade-grown coffee, which comes from the southern state of Chiapas. To get off to a good start, the Mexico Starbucks is offering free samples of many products to all customers.
For its first coffee shop in Mexico and in all of Latin America, Starbucks chose an ideal location, right across from the U.S. embassy in the ground floor of a hotel frequented by both business people and tourists.
There were tourists from the United States, Europe and Japan on hand Friday, but the majority of people in the shop were Mexicans who were either curious and wanted to try the Starbucks products or were familiar with them from having gone to a Starbucks in the United States.
Francisco Quiroz usually meets with his friends at a nearby Mexican restaurant called Sanborn's, but they decided to try something new.
He says he tried Starbucks in Atlanta and that the coffee being offered here in Mexico is of the same quality. He says Sanborn's also has good coffee, but that Starbucks is slightly better.
Although Mexico is the fifth largest coffee producing nation, it is not known as a big coffee consumer country. Per capita coffee consumption in Mexico is around half a kilogram a year, while in the United States it is more than five kilograms a year. The high cost of Starbucks coffee could also be a problem in a nation where the annual average salary is around $6,000. A regular coffee at Starbucks costs nearly $3. The price at most Mexican coffee shops is half that, but the quality of the product varies.
Starbucks executives say they hope to follow the lead established by other U.S. franchises that have been coming to Mexico since it dropped restrictions and started opening its economy nearly two decades ago. Hamburger restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King are now seen all over Mexico and many people here have developed a taste for Pizza, delivered to their doorstep by Dominos, Papa Johns and Pizza Hut.
The Starbucks franchise in Mexico is the result of a partnership between Seattle-based Starbucks and the Mexican firm SC de Mexico. The partners plan to open another 10 stores in Mexico in the coming year or so. Starbucks also has plans to expand into South America and the Caribbean in the years ahead.