Chains like Starbucks and Gloria Jeans were to coffee what the Eurovision song contest is to rock and roll. Their menus contained strange, sweet concoctions like GJ’s Arnott’s Tim Tam Chocolate Chiller or Starbuck’s White Chocolate Mocha Frappucino. When Starbucks launched in Australia the chain enjoyed a brief flurry of popularity, especially with the teen set who wanted a clubby atmosphere.
The first Starbucks opened in Seattle, USA, in 1971. The name comes from Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick. In the novel, the first mate on the whaling ship Pequod is called Starbuck. Initially, the business sold coffee beans and coffee roasting equipment but did not operate as a café. In the mid-1980s Starbucks began to offer espresso coffee and by 1986 had six stores in Seattle.
A former Starbucks employee, Howard Schultz, bought the business in 1987 and began a rapid expansion, initially into Vancouver and Chicago. The first store outside North America opened in Tokyo, Japan, in 1996. Starbucks launched its first Australian store at Hyde Park in Sydney in July 2000. As of 2018, the company operated 28,218 locations worldwide. The stores are all company-owned, not franchised.
It seems that Starbucks misread the coffee culture in Australia. Initially, the product offering featured sweeter coffees than Australians were used to, and at higher prices than most cafés. The chain opened too many outlets too quickly and by 2008 70 per cent of them had closed.