SHANGHAI: Starbucks, the US coffee shop chain, has opened a vast new megastore in Shanghai, which includes a range of added features designed to appeal to Chinese consumers, such as an upmarket bakery and augmented reality experiences.

At 30,000 square feet, the new premium “Reserve Roastery” is about half the size of a football pitch and is more than twice as large as the company’s only other Reserve Roastery in Seattle.

The new store is another sign of Starbucks’ commitment to China, where it already operates 3,000 stores – with 600 in Shanghai alone – and has plans to increase its portfolio to 5,000 by 2021.

According to CNBC, which visited the new Shanghai megastore, Starbucks estimates that it opens a new store every 15 hours in China and it hopes its roastery concept will become a destination in itself rather than just somewhere to have a coffee.

For example, the Shanghai roastery has a striking design with a ceiling made up of 10,000 handmade, wooden, hexagon-shaped tiles while its thick wooden doors are curved like a roasted coffee bean.

There are three coffee experience bars – one of which is 88 feet long, the longest Starbucks coffee bar in the world – with more than 100 beverages available to buy, including Teavana tea infused with nitrogen.

High-end Italian bakery Princi has a huge stall where more than 30 Chinese bakers and chefs will prepare more than 80 different products each day.

And Starbucks has also teamed up with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to provide customers with an augmented reality experience.

Using apps, customers can point their smartphones at various features within the huge store to learn more about them.

“This is an inflection point for the company where China will become a much more important component of the financial results of Starbucks,” said Howard Schultz, Executive Chairman of Starbucks.

Speaking to the Financial Times before the official opening of the Shanghai roastery, he also said that the new roastery concept “represents the ability to take the customer up” at a time when an increasing number of Chinese consumers no longer regard some US brands as premium.

He added that China could become the company’s biggest market within a decade and that its expansion into smaller cities is already delivering “fantastic returns”.

Sourced from CNBC, Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff