Starbucks to open its biggest location ever on Chicago's Magnificent Mile.
Image: Starbucks

It’s a familiar story, but it’s true: when a new coffee shop hits the block, that means things are about to change. For Starbucks, this was true then and now. A Starbucks moving into a block forecasts transformation and gentrification. A new Starbucks consigns the area it’s in to a faceless, corporate future of cold brew and those weird donut stick balls. Of course, the Starbucks siren oversees all of this. 

Recently though, new sleek, ultra-modern coffee chains like Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia have provided an alternative to Starbucks. They offer caffeine addicts bright spaces, unique pours, minimalist decor and, crucially, a new level of coffee snobbery. In short, they turned the ancient practice of pastries and coffee into lifestyle brands for new-age yuppies in major hubs.

Of course, Starbucks can’t stand idly. It recently introduced Starbucks Reserve locations. Reserve is the Starbucks experience wrapped up in specialty roasts, fireplaces, and high ceilings. To take it even a step further, the company also introduced its Starbucks Reserve Roastery. Now, the biggest Starbucks in the world is opening in Chicago

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A Trenta Starbucks Location 

Opening on November 15, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile marks the company’s sixth such location worldwide. The Chicago store follows in the footsteps of Seattle, Shanghai, Milan, New York City, and Tokyo. 

This one, though, pulls out all the stops, living up to what Starbucks calls “theatrical, experiential shrines to coffee passion.” The Roastery is less a coffee shop and more a palatial caffeine castle. The building stands four stories tall and will occupy 43,000 sq. feet. It will run thanks to 200 employees and will feature a full kitchen that churns out salads, pizzas, and desserts.

What’s more, the Roastery also houses a full bar with mixologists and exclusive, specialty cocktails for the nightlife crowd. “Having mixology there creates a great entertainment space, and being able to look over the city,” says Starbucks Chief Operating Officer Roz Brewer to the Chicago Tribune

The Roastery provides a welcoming, warm space that coffee drinkers conceivably never have to leave. Life begins and ends at the Roastery. Or, in the words of a company line touted by a rep, the Reserve Roastery “will provide customers with an immersive experience dedicated to roasting and brewing small-batch Starbucks Reserve coffee from around the world.”

Meet Me at the Experiential Dining Hall

The advent of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery makes sense. Besides an attempt at crushing local coffee shops, the Roastery is also a viable competitor to all-in-one, experiential dining spaces like food halls. 

Those living in a major city have probably witnessed the food hall trend firsthand. At first glance, food halls look like the modern cousin of a food court. Not that anyone is exactly craving a food court meal. 

The difference is that, instead of fast food chains and an Orange Julius, foodies imbibe natural wine, lick small-batch gelato, and eat Instagrammable fried things. As Vox points out, food halls fall into the category of “experiential retail.” In other words, spaces focused on local artisans that provide a comprehensive dining experience for consumers. Food halls are not DoorDash or technically fast-casual dining. They are also decidedly more communal. 

Of course, it was only a matter of time before corporations caught up. Then again, locations like the Roastery and food halls are only providing what consumers want in their cities and neighborhoods. A unique, high-end culinary and dining experience that isn’t available at a traditional restaurant or with maligned delivery services.

In the end, the block has changed and we’re welcoming that with open arms.

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