Johannesburg: Hundreds of coffee lovers queued early Thursday in an upmarket Johannesburg shopping centre as international chain Starbucks opened its first cafe in sub-Saharan Africa.
The US-based global brand plans to open 12-15 more stores in South Africa over the next two years, with a long term plan of up to 150 outlets.
"The timing is right. We are going to offer coffee lovers a special experience," said Carlo Gonzaga, chief executive of Taste Holdings, the local partner of Starbucks Coffee Company.
The cafe's first customers formed a long line at Starbucks' doors in the Rosebank shopping centre before the opening at 7:30 a.m.
"This is long overdue," said Norma Cooper, a bank employee.
"Starbucks has been one of the things missing from the South African scene."
A second branch will open later this month at another shopping mall, also in the financial capital Johannesburg, but Gonzaga said there were no plans of expanding to other countries in the region.
Starbucks, which operates more than 22,000 cafes worldwide, has a presence in only two other African countries ─ Egypt and Morocco.
Gonzaga told journalists the prices were tailor made for the South African market and not linked to the exchange rate, which has seen the South African currency fall against the US dollar.
A caffe latte in the stylishly designed shop with copper artworks costs between 27 and 33 rand ($1.89- $2.30).
In terms of wages, a bank teller's hourly rate in South Africa starts from 19.28 rand while an administrative clerk starts from 17.94 rand, according to Payscale, a private salary survey firm.
Starbucks will compete with a host of well-established locally-owned brands and independent coffee shops.
"We also carefully considered South African customer tastes when we developed our menu and customers can expect local products like Rooibos tea," said Gonzaga.
Some of the coffee beans are sourced from nine African countries, including Kenya and Burundi.
South Africa has the most developed economy on the continent, and several American food chains have opened doors here recently, including Burger King and Krispy Kreme Doughnut.