Starbucks' new Willy Wonka-inspired store in Tokyo offers a glimpse into the brand's future

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Starbucks is opening another Willy Wonka-inspired Roastery — this time, in Tokyo, Japan.

On Thursday, CEO Howard Schultz announced that the coffee giant would open its fourth Roastery in Tokyo in 2018.

"It's clear to the me that the universal interest in premium retail experiences is not skewed to only the US," Schultz told Business Insider. "I think there is a bigger trend here — as companies face the threat of e-commerce and mobile shopping, the burden of responsibility of the bricks and mortar retailers is to create a very immersive, dynamic experience."

For Starbucks, Roasteries are a major piece of the puzzle in creating this immersive experience. The coffee chain opened its first Roastery in Seattle in 2014, and has plans to open a second in Shanghai in 2017 and a third in New York in 2018.

Starbucks RoasteryKate Taylor

The Seattle location provides a basic blueprint for future Roasteries, as well as a window into the future of Starbucks more broadly. The 15,000-square-foot location combines coffee production, menu testing, and architectural whimsy, serving up drinks like the $10 Nitro Cold Brew Float made with coffee roasted on location.

The Tokyo Roastery, which will be located in the upscale Nakameguro district, will be 13,000 square feet. The space will be designed by Kengo Kuma, an architect who has previously collaborated with Starbucks to create one of its most creative and striking locations to date.

Like all future Roastery locations, the Tokyo Roastery will have a fully-integrated bakery operation, thanks to Starbucks' recent partnership with Italian artisanal bakery Pinci. As more Roasteries open, each will have distinct aspects that set it apart.

"Every Roastery that we open will have all the elements and the foundation of the Seattle Roastery, with locally relevant products and retail theater," Schultz said.

Japan_Store2_Photo_Credit _Masao_NishikawaKate Taylor

The Tokyo Roastery represents two major trends happening at Starbucks: the increasing importance of brand-boosting, upscale locations and the growth in Asia.

Widespread popularity can be the kiss of death for brands like Starbucks that have built their business on attracting younger, trendy customers. Gourmet shops, like the Roasteries, have used physical locations to help build Starbucks' coffee-snob approved brand, giving the chain a leg up on less prestigious coffee shops and e-commerce retailers.

"What the Roasteries have shown us is that there is this a real opportunity for our company to create this super premium brand," says Schultz.

As Starbucks opens more Roasteries, the chain is also working on scaled-down versions of the mega-stores. The chain plans to open roughly 500 to 1,000 Reserve stores, which offers premium Roastery beverages and artisanal Princi food, over time. In the next year, Starbucks plans to open 1,000 stores with Reserve Bars, which will serve drinks made in a wider variety of styles such as pour-over and siphoning.

starbucks slideKate Taylor

Starbucks' exploration of super-premium branding isn't restricted to the US. While it is notable that half of its currently planned Roasteries will be located in Asia, the move is unsurprising looking at the chain's growth in the region, especially in China.

Today, Starbucks has more than 6,200 locations in the Asia Pacific region. That includes 2,300 locations in China, compared to 400 stores in 2011. The company plans to reach 5,000 stores in China — where it is currently opening a new store roughly every day — by 2021.

"I am quite convinced that, over time, China will be larger than the US and larger than any market we have in the world," says Schultz.

However, with the Shanghai and Tokyo Roasteries, as well as business in Asia more broadly, Starbucks is careful not to assume what works in Seattle will succeed in China and Japan.

"We want to apply the same discipline and thoughtfulness and, most importantly, respect for the Chinese customer, and Japanese customer and realize that our success in US does not give us the license to succeed anywhere else in the world," says Schultz. "We have to earn it."

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A woman walks into a Starbucks Coffee, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
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Baristas Truong Nguyen, left, and Ben Ruthruff, right, talk with customers near a display of special Seattle Seahawks Starbucks cards on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, at a Starbucks store in Seattle. The Seahawks began a one-week fund-raising campaign Wednesday with Starbucks to benefit Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll's A Better Seattle program, which seeks to reach at-risk youth and prevent gang violence. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz poses for the photographer before a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, May 13, 2013. Schultz, visiting Bangkok this week to mark the coffee giant's 15 year anniversary of opening in Thailand, said Monday the coffee chain's first stores in India and Vietnam have been received positively and it might soon be time to give Myanmar a shot too. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Two customers sit outside a Starbucks vandalized by angry protestors in opposition to Mexico's newly sworn-in president, in Mexico City, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. Protests began early Saturday morning with violent confrontations in the streets and protest speeches from opposition parties inside the congress, where Enrique Pena Nieto took the oath of office. Protesters continued vandalizing downtown businesses, smashing plate glass windows and setting office furniture ablaze outside. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
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In this photo take Dec. 3, 2010, a Starbucks logo is displayed at a store in Philadelphia. Starbucks Corp. said Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011, that customers with certain BlackBerry smartphones, iPhones and iPod touch can now use those devices to make purchases at all of its U.S. company-run stores.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
In this Feb. 14, 2010 photo, a sign outside a Starbucks hangs over the Riverwalk with the Navarro Street bridge in the background in San Antonio, Texas. Starbucks plans to begin paying a 10-cents-per-share cash dividend to investors.(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
FILE - This file photo made Nov. 2, 2009, shows a Starbucks coffee shop in Arlington, Mass. Starbucks releases quarterly earnings after the close of the market Wednesday, July 21, 2010. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
Shown Tuesday, August 11, 2009 is a Starbucks Coffee shop at Adriatrica, a development in McKinney, Texas, designed to look like a Croatian Village.(AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)
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** FILE ** South Korean tourists queue up to buy coffee at an outlet of Starbucks at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, in this Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 file photo. A member of China's legislature has revived calls for the removal of a Starbucks coffee shop from Beijing's Forbidden City, saying its presence was a smear on China's historical legacy, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday March 11, 2007. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
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