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Starbucks is on the verge of opening a Princi bakery and restaurant inside its upmarket Seattle Roastery location, the first of a number of expected openings of the Italian eatery format around the US.

Last year, Starbucks became a global licensee of and investor in the Princi bakery brand, which was launched in Italy in 1986 and offers focaccia sandwiches, margherita pizzas and tiramisu.

The Washington Post this morning reports that Starbucks “plans to eventually open bakeries inside all of its Reserve locations, and next year hopes to open stand-alone Princi eateries across the country. The openings will be in New York, Seattle and Chicago.”

“We’re getting into the food business,” Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ chairman, tells the Post. “Princi will be fully integrated with bakery operations, so not only will we be roasting coffee, but we’ll be baking bread, pastries — the kind of Italian pastries you’ve never seen in America.”

The story goes on: “The move is the latest effort by the 45-year-old coffee purveyor to expand into food. Many of its attempts — prepackaged cake pops, truffle mac and cheese, ‘sushi burritos’ — have fizzled, analysts say, in part because Starbucks stores haven’t had kitchens. If customers are paying $10 for lunch, analysts say they want it to be prepared on the spot.”
KC's View:
Let’s be clear. This isn’t the first time Starbucks has made a similar move. Five years ago, Starbucks spent $100 million to acquire the highly regarded La Boulange bakery chain based in San Francisco, but then shut down the stores because they didn’t fit into the company’s strategic direction.

So it isn’t a given that this is going to be a success.

There will be those who will argue that the smell of baking and cooking might overwhelm the coffee aromas that have defined Starbucks, and that some people will find this to be distracting.

And one has to wonder about the long-term infrastructure plans when it comes to installing bakeries in traditional stores. If the goal is to bake stuff elsewhere and then deliver products to the stores, then I’m not sure that addresses the freshness, and perception of freshness, issues.

I admire Starbucks’ willingness to try new things. The question is whether this is just another case of it chasing the latest shiny - and aromatic - object. But competition is war, and ware requires commitment and a little bit of daring.

The headline of this story refers to a line from “Henry V,” by William Shakespeare, but there’s another passage from the play occurs to me at this moment:

In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood…