Starbucks chooses Bangkok for first Reserve Bar in region

Something good is brewing in Bangkok as Starbucks opened its first Reserve Bar in Southeast Asia in the Thai capital last week, with local executives of the global coffee chain saying they still see strong growth possibilities after two decades in the Thai market.

Starbucks chose midtown’s Central World complex for the site of its upscale venue, described as a concept store offering nitrogen-infused brewing, Starbucks draft beverages and a premium experience for gourmet coffee aficionados. Central World is one of the largest and most popular shopping and dining complexes in the capital, drawing throngs of locals and tourists alike.

Starbucks Thailand Country Manager Nednapa Srisamai said the Kingdom was chosen as the first Asia-Pacific nation for the new concept store because the brand is widely recognized among Thai coffee drinkers, and the penetration rate of premium coffee in Thailand is still small when compared with consumption of regular instant coffee.

When the United States-based coffee chain entered the Thai market with one modest cafe near Silom Road in 1998, many analysts questioned whether the brand would succeed in a country whose people overwhelmingly preferred tea and where instant coffees dominate the relatively small coffee market.

But the brand became a trendsetter and status symbol among younger urban Thais, and Starbucks cafes became a ‘cool’ place to meet and hang out with peers. While tea and instant coffees still dominate, coffee has caught on to the point where Starbucks has 335 stores across the Kingdom. Other chains have followed in its footsteps, including Gloria Jean’s, Coffee World and others.

The company has been opening new branches in Thailand at a rate of between 30 and 40 a year over the past few years and has a target of having 600 cafes in the Kingdom by 2022.

“The coffee business continues to grow in the first half of this year. Our sales have increased at a double-digit rate because we continue opening new coffee stores, while spending by consumers is higher and they make more frequent visits to our stores,” said Sumonpin Jotikabukkana, Starbucks Thailand’s marketing and communications director.
The Bangkok Post reported that the Thai coffee market is worth nearly $580 million a year. Thais drink an average of 250 cups of coffee a year compared to over 400 cups a year by Japanese and British coffee drinkers.

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