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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