Winner status for Starbucks in Tianjin?

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Starbucks’ activities in China have been pretty well documented over the last couple of years as it works to ensure that it is the major player in the market in the face of strong opposition from the likes of Luckin Coffee (which has appeared from a standing start in October 2017 to become a contender).

With two Reserve Roastery mega-cafés, in Shanghai and Beijing, a tech-dominated coffee-to-go micro format, also in Beijing and numerous branches across the country, Starbucks is throwing everything it’s got at the Chinese coffee drinker. And last week it opened a ‘Reserve’ store in Tianjin, a format that lies somewhere between a Reserve Roastery and a standard branch.

This one is housed in a historic building dating from 1921 and comes complete with a patterned marble floor, an overhead neo-classical dome and highly finished wooden fixtures and serving counters. As such, it is about slowing down the customer and providing an ‘experience’. It succeeds on both counts and if you were to place bets on Starbucks’ emerging as kingpin in the Chinese market, you’d get pretty short odds.