Starbucks Concept Store Is A Lab For Reinventing The Brand

A new coffeehouse in Amsterdam will be the testing ground for ideas that will find their way to the rest of Europe.

Starbucks is known for its unwavering consistency, from its unoffensively homey store décor to its burnt-coffee smell. But this Thursday, the brand that normalized the $4 latte is opening an experimental concept store in Amsterdam that offers a glimpse of the Starbucks of the future—at least in Europe.

Located in the former vault of a historic bank on Rembrandtplein, the new shop will be a showcase for sustainable interior design and slow coffee brewing, with small-batch reserve coffees and Europe’s first-ever Clover, a high-end machine that brews one cup at a time. But the most radical departure is in the aesthetic: the multilevel space is awash in recycled and local materials; walls are lined with antique Delft tiles, bicycle inner tubes, and wooden gingerbread molds; repurposed Dutch oak was used to make benches, tables, and the undulating ceiling relief consisting of 1,876 pieces of individually sawn blocks. The Dutch-born Liz Muller, Starbucks concept design director, commissioned more than 35 artists and craftsmen to add their quirky touches to the 4,500-square-foot space.

The designers took great care to retain some of the building’s original details, such as the 1920s marble floor and the vault’s exposed concrete. But while the design respects the bank’s architectural history, the store’s overall look approaches that of a theater, with the baristas visible from every vantage point of the multi-tiered spaces (which also cameo as stages for local bands, poetry readings, and other cultural events). The coffeehouse will also use social media to communicate relevant moments throughout the day—for example, by sending out a tweet when warm cookies roll out of its in-house bakery. The concepts that go over well in Amsterdam will find their way to other stores across Europe. They may even filter into the highly individualized local concept stores that Starbucks has been stealthily opening in the United States, including one made from shipping containers outside of Seattle.

This isn’t the first instance of a quintessentially American brand revamping its approach to appeal to foreign tastes and markets. Check out our stories on McDonald’s in Paris and Burger King in Singapore.

[Images by Rien Meulman]

Add New Comment


  • ratna amalia

    can u explain to me where the concept from? what's relation between selling a cup of coffee and recycled item for interior. (I am a student who was researching about the concept store. i want to discuss about concept store). please send a message to


    Eye-catching design with the play between geometric and organic shapes, but needs a variety in materials used…too much wood in this concept.

  • Paolo

    Lovely design work, still the coffee is so bad - as an Italian, that's not a negligible part of the experience! I think this is an interesting direction, especially since a number of boutique establishments have been popping up in town, the most notable being where, even if I hate to admit it, I have had the best cup of coffee in my life, roasted, ground and brewed in front of my eyes.

  • phuong

    Hmmm Starbucks bombed in Australia where they have to close 90%(only a few left in major cities i think for tourists) of their stores after a rapid opening regime that missed understanding the local market where people rather drink from individual boutique cafes.

  • Petri M

    Great move. I think that the best time to reinvent your brand is when your business is still boosting.

  • Simon Field

    Though this store looks very nice, reminiscent a lovely book store, I sort of feel that Starbucks should be improving their product before their store concept.

  • Jack Burgess

    It also resembles the second floor of the Harvard Square Starbucks. To me it feels way more like somewhere I'd want to stay and work in, or have a meeting. Starbucks feels like it needs a bit of a refresh, I like this direction.

  • Tom Kelley

    Looks a bit like their neighborhood (non Starbucks branded) concept on Capital Hill in Seattle --  which is very refreshing.

  • Shane Kernaghan

    The store is such a large size, and because of this it will work..! But what about the other smaller stores around the world?? Might not work?
    As for the communal tables this works well within europe as people prefer to go out for  a few coffees instead of a few beers..!! 

  • Aaron J. Henninger

    Part of what makes the concept of having a true design aesthetic is that the function of consuming a coffee or tapas at a location is much more a function of being social and interactive-- something we have gotten away from in the States. One of the images of the concept store demonstrates communal or shared tables (something that is very common in Europe), by allowing designers to maximize space and incorporate design elements that lend to or enhance communication, you often times see much more visually appeal space. A pity we do not allow for more of this in the U.S. 

  • Jaime Guerrero

    Starbucks tried this before with the Circadia store concept in 1999.  By then, HQ realized they were not making inroads with the trendy hipster crowd who rightly recognized Starbucks as a middle-America/suburban brand, not a hip funky brand.  Circadia was designed at great cost to look like a one-off mom-and-pop cafe.  One store opened in San Francisco at Mariposa and Bryant at a reportedly $1million+, and one or two other stores were reportedly opened in other markets.  The stores were "stealth" -- they did not mention Starbucks anywhere, to maintain their hip cred, except for a "tell" that some patrons could detect, since they sold Frappucinos.  The concept failed and the store converted to a regular Starbucks about 2 years later.   Google "fake starbucks san francisco bryant street" for the whole story.

  • bwj

    Unless Starbucks isn't including Scandinavia when it refers to "Europe," I know for sure they don't have the first-ever Clover. There have been 2 in Gothenburg, Sweden and 1 in  Oslo, Norway. But why let the facts ruin their great marketing pitch! 

  • Laurence Vincent

    Even if the concept goes nowhere, I applaud Starbucks for rethinking the store experience. Most brands spend too much time doing market research and keeping ideas close to the vest. There's something to be said for building a prototype and seeing what happens.