Sunday, 8 December 2013

A Starbucks for Monaco

When I arrived at Monaco's brand spanking new Starbucks this morning, there was an empty dark grey Lamborghini parked on the sidewalk out front, idling away.  

By the time I'd pulled out my camera, its owner had left the shop with a distinctive Starbucks paper cup in his hand, slipped into his car and roared off.  I imagine this will be a common scene from now on. The idea of "take out" coffee in a paper cup doesn't  exist here. 

On Wednesday, Monaco's first ever Starbucks opened to great fanfare, ribbon cutting, and the revelation that Princess Charlene along with two local businessmen were the driving force behind it.  Hats off to them.  The café scene could use a bit of shaking up around here.

Monaco has a huge number of cafés, buvettes and tea rooms but most of them are what I'd call  "Old School."  In other words, a bit frayed around the edges, uncomfortably cramped, and frankly, unwelcoming.  On the luxe end of the spectrum are tourist haunts like the Café de Paris where for €20 you can get a weak pot of tea and watery hot chocolate served by war-weary, surly waiters.  Alas, what you're really paying for there is a luxurious perch from which to people watch.  Truth be told, for €20 it's quite the show!

Many of the old guard café and shop owners seem to harbour an innate disdain and suspicion towards foreign brands, especially those which may alter the status quo or steal patrons away from them.

So along comes a shiny new Starbucks in the bottom corner of a shiny new block of apartments, shaking things up a bit. To begin with, its interior and sprawling terrace are extravagantly spacious for the Principality where commercial real estate costs an average of €25,000- €50,000 per square metre.

When I walked in this morning to take a peek, there was pleasant music playing in the background, a lively buzz, and staff who were smiling and helpful. Such a fine sight to see that they offer soy milk as an alternative to cows' milk.  This is completely unheard of in these parts.  What a breath of modern fresh air it all is.

Since I never drink coffee, today was about the 5th time I've ever stepped foot in a Starbucks. I guess you could say I'm mostly indifferent about the brand because I've never really had the need to go into one.  All that changed this morning.  I've already made plans to go there with some friends après-skating on Wednesday to check it out.

As they say, location is everything.


I dragged Hubby and some curious Canadian friends to Starbucks last Wednesday afternoon, après-skating so we could share the Starbucks experience together.

When we arrived, there was a very slow moving line that snaked out the door.  When we finally got to the counter to order, it became clear why the line was moving at a snail's pace.  Suffice to say that more staff training and a sense of hustle is required.  Generally speaking, in my experience, efficient American service doesn't translate into French.

Other notes:  unfortunately they used UHT milk in their beverages but to their credit, they used soy milk that was not too sweet.  Hubby also noted that his cinnamon bun was stale.

Nonetheless, despite its faults, I think I'd go back on my own for a steamed soy milk and just to sit in a spacious, modern café and access their free WiFi.

The view from the outdoor terrace

Starbucks Monaco


donna baker said...

You'll get hooked. And, bet all the other old haunts will have to step it up.

Gustia said...

You're right, nothing like some healthy competition to raise the bar.

Anonymous said...

Starbucks France/Monaco uses UHT milk instead of Lait Frais. I just can't get used to UHT milk.

Gustia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gustia said...

Ah yes, it's one of Hubby's pet peeves too. I'm happy to see they offer soy milk. That's definitely a big first around here.

fiftyfinally said...

now all monaco needs is a ``timmies``

Gustia said...

Ha ha! You know something? I suggested that to the snobs sitting at a table of 8 at a Canada Club of Monaco dinner years ago. It certainly stopped the conversation!