Timeline: celebrating 50 years of Starbucks

By Kate Birch
From the famed inaugural Seattle store in the 70s to 32,000 stores spanning 80 countries 50 years later, we chart five decades of Starbucks

From the famed inaugural Seattle store in the 70s to 32,000 stores spanning 80 countries 50 years later, we chart five decades of Starbucks. 


Total stores: 4

Starbucks was born in 1971 in Seattle by three friends from the University of San Francisco, all instructed in the art of roasting by gourmet coffee company Peet’s founder. Throughout the 70s, they sold Peet’s roasted coffee beans and grinders, proving popular and profitable, grossing US$46,832 in the first nine months, and opening a second store in 1972. They began roasting their own beans and opened a roasting plan in 1978. The brand’s name and logo were inspired by nautical mythology, the logo a mermaid (though brown, not green) and the name taken from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Starbucks moved to its second location in 1977, Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market, where the store with the original brown logo still remains.


Total stores: 55

In 1982, after Starbucks opened its fifth store, featuring the first Starbucks bar and selling brewed coffee, Howard Schultz joins Starbucks as director of marketing and starts providing coffee to fine restaurants and espresso bars. Following a buying trip to Milan, where he experienced a cultural awakening inspired by the city’s coffee bars, Schultz tried to convince Starbucks to test the coffeehouse concept in downtown Seattle. They decline and Schultz opens his own coffee bar Il Giornale in 1985 using Starbucks roasted beans, and in 1987, acquires Starbucks for US$3.8m, becoming CEO of Starbucks Corporations. He opens stores in Chicago and Vancouver, Canada, with 55 stores by the end of the 80s. Full health benefits are offered to all employees in 1988.  


Total stores: 2,498

Starbucks becomes the first privately owned US company to offer a stock option program and completes its initial IPO in 92. It makes numerous acquisitions, including Tazo Tea and extends the brand into grocery channels US-wide, including its newly launched Frappuccino bottles. It was the decade Starbucks starts giving back, launching its Foundation, opening stores in underserved neighbourhoods via a joint-venture partnership with Magic Johnson, establishing an emergency financial assistance fund for partners, and partnering with Conservation International to promote sustainable coffee-growing practices.

The 90s saw a 45-fold increase in store openings, from 55 to 2,498, including debuting its first online store, first licensed airport store (Seattle), first drive-through location, and first store outside of the US (Japan in 96) before rolling out global stores, in the UK, Malaysia, New Zealand, Thailand, China, Kuwait, and Lebanon, among others.

2000 – 2010

Total stores: 16,858

Ethics, health, sustainability and digital dominate the decade. Starbucks begins selling Fairtrade certified coffee, introduces ethical coffee-sourcing guidelines, debuts its first two Farmer Support Centers (Costa Rica, Rwanda), unveils the industry’s first paper beverage cup, eliminates all artificial trans fats from beverages, and acquires Ethos Water. Store openings grow seven-times during the decade, across 42 new countries, including Hong Kong, Australia, Saudi, Chile, Turkey, Germany, Brazil Russia, and Jordan, and its first overseas roasting facility.

Having stepped back from the CEO role in 2000, chairman Schultz returns in 2008, adopting a new company mission statement focused on ‘inspiring and nurturing the human spirit’, and upping digital transformation, unveiling Starbuck’s first online community, debuting Twitter/Facebook pages, launching a loyalty card program and Starbucks Card mobile payment, and offering customers unlimited Wi-Fi.


Total stores: 32,000

Starbucks doubles its number of stores, with 15,000+ in the US alone, and extends its reach to 80 countries, including Guatemala, Morocco, Finland, India, and Vietnam. Elevation takes centrestage with the acquisition of La Boulange and Teavana, launch of Cold Brew iced coffee, and opening of Starbucks’ first Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle. The company reaches a 99% ethically sourced coffee milestone in 2015 and opens an ethical coffee farming R&D centre in Costa Rica.

Hiring its first chief community officer in 2012, the brand opens its first community store in an underserved neighbourhood with 15 more opening during the decade; rolls out US$1.5m in neighbourhood grants, creates a community fund of US$100m to help advance racial equity, commits to hiring 10,000 military veterans and 100,000 opportunity youth, and hires its first chief inclusion and diversity officer in 2020. And on March 18, 2019, Starbucks opens its milestone 30,000th store, in Shenzhen, China.



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