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The 50-year rise of Starbucks, from a single Seattle location selling roasted beans to one of the most recognizable brands in the world

Business

Starbucks

Summary List Placement

The first Starbucks opened in Pike Place Market in Seattle in March of 1971.

Source: Insider, Starbucks

Initially, the storefront only sold coffee beans and equipment, a far cry from the extensive menus available today.

Source: Starbucks

In 1981, future CEO Howard Schultz first visited Starbucks. The following year he joined as director of retail operations and marketing.

Source: Starbucks

In 1982, Starbucks also opened its fifth location, selling brewed coffee for the first time.

Source: History Link

In 1983, Schultz was famously inspired by espresso bars in Milan, and hoped to bring the concept back to the US.

Source: Starbucks

The first Starbucks latte was served in downtown Seattle in 1984, testing out Schultz’ idea of expanding into espresso drinks.

Source: Starbucks

In 1987, Schultz’s coffee house company Il Giornale acquired Starbucks for $3.8 million and becomes the Starbucks Corporation.

Source: Starbucks, Historylink

In 1991 as the coffeehouse concept was catching on in the US, Starbucks differentiated itself with tall, grande, and venti sizes.

Source: Delish

By 1992, there were 165 Starbucks locations, and the company completed an IPO at $17 per share.

Source: Starbucks, MSN

Starbucks started testing out drive-thrus in Southern California in 1994.

Source: Delish

Starbucks first introduced the frappuccino in 1995 as a blend of coffee, milk, and ice. Other customizations would come later.

Source: Starbucks

Starbucks’ first locations outside of North America opened in Japan and Singapore in 1996.

Starbucks started selling the Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003, and its been an iconic part of the fall lineup ever since.

Source: Delish

In 2005, Starbucks hit 10,000 stores around the world including in Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.

Source: Starbucks

Starbucks hit a rough patch in 2007, with stock prices plummeting 42% as customers turned to competitors like McDonald’s and Dunkin who started offering higher-quality coffee items.

Source: CNN

Schultz returned as CEO in 2008 to close underperforming stores, retrain employees, and get Starbucks back to its roots, priming the chain for a comeback.

Source: CNN

In 2009, Starbucks was early to launch a mobile rewards program and payment method that grew to almost a million members by 2020.

Source: Starbucks, Insider Intelligence

In 2011, Starbucks followed design trends to make the logo more minimal, removing the company name and simplifying the color scheme.

Source: Insider

Starbucks acquired the chain Teavana for $620 million in 2012.

Source: Insider

Starbucks opened its first Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle in 2014, a larger-format flagship-style store.

Source: Starbucks

That year, Starbucks also launched mobile order and pay, which has become a key part of the business.

Source: Starbucks

Cold Brew joined the menu in summer 2015 before it was adopted by other chains.

Source: Insider

Instagrammable drinks like the Unicorn frappuccino drove sales in 2017, and customers were able to customize increasingly elaborate drinks.

Source: Insider

Just five years after they were acquired, Starbucks closed all 379 Teavana stores because they were underperforming.

Source: Beverage Daily

Starbucks faced backlash after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks in 2018 in a viral video, though bystanders said the men did nothing wrong.

Source: Insider

In response, Starbucks closed all 8000-plus US stores for a day in May 2018 for racial-bias education, which also became a permanent part of new hire training.

Source: Starbucks

The coffee chain embraced plant-based options, launching the Impossible Breakfast Sandwich and almond and oat milk varieties.

Source: Insider

Drive-thru and pickup orders have become key to Starbucks’ business, making up 80% of orders prior to the pandemic and even more since then.

Starbucks continues to invest in drive-thru technologies, including digital screens with AI that can recommend items and make waits shorter.

Source: Insider

Now, Starbucks is offering employees paid time off to get the COVID-19 vaccine and extended catastrophe pay due to the pandemic.

Source: Starbucks

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