Stars Coffee, anyone? Starbucks successor opening in Russia

MOSCOW — People in Moscow, who were disappointed when Starbucks closed its cafes after Russia sent troops to Ukraine, may now feel a caffeinated glimmer of hope: a nearly identical operation is about to open in the capital.

The name is almost the same: Stars Coffee. The logo could be the twins of the Starbucks mermaid, separated at birth, with flowing hair, a small enigmatic smile and a star on her head – although instead of a Starbucks crown, she wears a Russian headdress called a kokoshnik.

The menu, judging by the company’s app, which launched a day before the store’s official opening on Friday, would look familiar to any Starbucks customer.

Starbucks said Thursday it had no comment on the new stores.

Seattle-based Starbucks was one of the most visible of the wave of foreign companies that withdrew from Russia or went out of business in response to the Russian military operation in Ukraine. Others include McDonald’s, IKEA and fast fashion giant H&M

The departure of these companies was a psychological blow to Russians, who had become accustomed to the conveniences of Western-style consumer culture. But Russian entrepreneurs saw opportunities in suddenly vacant stores.

Former McDonald’s branches reopen, attracting a sizeable crowd under the Vkusno – i Tochka name. Though the name doesn’t roll off the tongue easily and is a bit awkward to translate (roughly: It’s Tasty – period), the menu is proof that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Yunus Yusupov, a popular rap artist who uses the stage name Timati, and restaurateur Anton Pinsky teamed up to buy Starbucks’ assets and then took the impersonation strategy one step further by giving the operation an English-language name gifts.

At a press conference Thursday, they pledged to reopen all former Starbucks under their new identity and even expand the business. The US company had expanded its operations in Russia to about 130 stores since entering the country in 2007. The stores were owned and operated by a franchisee, Alshaya Group of Kuwait.

While the new operations’ close resemblance to their predecessors might be seen as someone else’s inspiration and effort, the successors to Starbucks and McDonald’s also fit into a national pride concept. As Russia has been beset by sanctions and foreign withdrawals, officials frequently claim that Russia will overcome it, relying on its own resources and energies.

“Now the economic situation is difficult, but this is a time of opportunity,” Oleg Eskindarov, president of the holding company that was a partner in the Starbucks deal, told state news agency TASS. “For the past four months, we’ve been very active in looking at exiting companies like Starbucks. There are a few more similar examples, but we can’t talk about them yet.”

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Stars Coffee, anyone? Starbucks successor opening in Russia

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