The million dollar question—will Starbucks be successful in Argentina? The short answer after today is yes.
As you saw in my previous post, the temptation and curiosity were just too much to keep me away. My daughter was upset when she found out that I had gone to Starbucks without her. So I loaded up the family in a cab and headed over to Alto Palermo to treat them to TGI Fridays (right next door) and to let my daughter get her mocha fix.
When I arrived this morning around 9:00 about an hour after they opened, the line was out the door and to the steps at the corner of Arenales and Col Diaz. It was over a 30 minute wait.
When I went back this afternoon with my daughter the line was longer. It was snaking up the sidewalk of Ave. Col Diez. It stayed like that the whole time were eating lunch. After lunch, my daughter waited in that line for over an hour. For a mocha!
Was it worth it?, I asked her. Yes I would wait an hour for another one!, was the reply.
But what about Porteños? Will they stand in line for Coffee or demand that it be brought to them at the there table from mozos wearing bowties like in all the other cafés here?
When Mike and I were standing in line this morning, the whole line was made up of university kids from UBA and University of Palermo. The few older well dressed porteños would pop there head in and try to find a table, see that there was no mozo service, and then turn around and walk off.
It was much the same this afternoon. The older porteños were not having any part of it. Mainly, because of the hour long line. In fact, this afternoon the line was made up of 75% teenage girls just out of school. The one thing that is clear, Starbucks is going to be a hit with the 25 and under crowd. This ain't their father's kind of café.
I think the older crowd is still going to prefer the traditional Argentina café service. They will not wait in a line. They want to sit down at a table, have the coffee brought to them with the soda water and the small plate of cookies. And they certainly won't want to drink it out of a paper cup!
However, there was another demographic that was clearly present at Starbucks this morning. You know the type. They are the equivalent of our soccer moms back home. Except these women dress their kids in nothing but Gap clothes. The ones with the Gap logos printed real big on the front so everyone can see they must travel to Miami all the time.
They are the same women you see at the doctor office waiting rooms with the department store bags from Macy's, Barnes and Nobel, and Neimans. They like to subtly announce to everyone that they don't shop in Buenos Aires. They go to the States to shop. To them, anything with a "US" label is a must have. So naturally they want to be seen around town with the not-so-ubiquitous white cup with the green logo.
So will Starbucks be a success here? Based on the response today, Frank should be a very happy man. However, it will take time. Clearly, the under 25 crowd gets it. The older crowd will have to be converted slowly and I don't think the Martinez and Havanna chains have much to worry about yet.
This morning, I was talking with Ricardo Rico, Starbucks' director of Marketing in Latin America. He said they knew Argentina was going to be a tough market to crack. They took their time and wanted to do it right. But he knew it was going to be an education process here and that was going to take some time too. He was confident they had the right mix of products to appeal to the Argentine taste.
Come on Ricardo! A mate flavored latte? Yes thats right, a mate latte. Yuck!