Why Starbucks And Apple Are Embracing The Big-Box Mentality

Go grande or go home.

Why Starbucks And Apple Are Embracing The Big-Box Mentality
[Photo: courtesy Starbucks]

Starbucks has announced a store that’s more than twice as large as any Starbucks that has come before—a roastery that will open in Chicago in 2019.


Starbucks opened its first store of this type in Seattle in 2015. Built to roast beans on site, it was then the world’s biggest Starbucks. We called the 15,000-square-foot hipster mecca of brass and mixed woods both “monstrous” and “gorgeous.” But perhaps the wildest conceit of it was this: It was no loss-lead flagship. Starbucks planned for it to break a profit–and it has, giving Starbucks a four-times return on its investment to date.

Now, Starbucks has announced a third roastery store, this one in Chicago. At four stories tall and 43,000 square feet (which is about the sprawl of a football field), it’s almost triple the size of the original, and two times the size of a roastery planned for N.Y.C., taking over the Crate & Barrel that was set on the Mag Mile. The store will be fully “interactive,” the company promises, featuring small-batch bean roasting, every style of brewing method you can imagine, and an on-site bakery that will put Starbucks’s standard pastry case to shame.

“The Roastery offers connection in a completely different way for our customers,” a spokesperson tells Co.Design. “Its size allows us to bring to life coffee craft that feels like both journey and discovery.”

It, too, is built to make a profit. But how?

Starbucks’s strategy is in line with one of the largest retail trends today: the consumer quest for a memory over a good. Much of Starbucks’s business–like Target‘s, or Taco Bell’s–involves sticking a tiny store wherever the company can fit one. But another part of the market demands bigger, more immersive experiences that counteract the functional, internet-gratification of services like Amazon two-day shipping.

Seattle Reserve Roastery [Image: courtesy Starbucks]
It’s likely no coincidence that this 43,000-square-foot Starbucks is about the same size as Eataly, the Mario Batali-backed, self-contained Epcot of Italian cuisine, that allows you to visit a butcher, pasta maker, gelateria, deli, bakery, and several restaurants, all under one roof in locations across the world. Apple is taking a similar approach, albeit with a smaller footprint, reimagining its hundreds of stores as “town squares” where novices and creatives alike will gather to discuss photography, video, social media, websites, coding, and, of course, Apple products. Apple wants to turn its stores into social schools where you could learn anything about digital production, all in one place.


Seattle Reserve Roastery [Photo: courtesy Starbucks]
The Chicago Starbucks Reserve Roastery won’t open until 2019, and represents only one of dozens of roaster stores the company plans to open in the coming years to complement its 25,000 other locations around the globe. And it makes us wonder: Is the next big-box store just going to be full of artisanal foods rather than furniture and home improvement goods? Until consumers lose their appetite for the spectacle, the answer could be a resounding yes.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.