Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) will open its biggest café in the world in Shanghai on Wednesday in a bid to maintain its upscale reputation in the increasingly important Chinese market.

The Seattle-based company’s new 30,000 square foot Roastery allows customers to sample drinks, use an augmented reality digital app to interact with the store and watch coffee beans being roasted. The outlet, which is approximately half the size of a soccer field, was described by Starbucks as a “state-of-the-art premium reserve roastery” and has been specifically designed to attract affluent, white-collar Chinese consumers, according to the Financial Times.

Source: Joshua Trujillo / Starbucks Newsroom

Starbucks’ huge expansion in China — the company already has 3,000 stores in the country and opens up new outlets there roughly every 15 hours — has been orchestrated to offset sluggish growth in other regions of the world. Executive chairman Howard Schultz believes that appetite for top-end luxury goods in the People’s Republic is transferable to coffee and predicted at the roastery’s unveiling that China is on course to become the company's biggest market within a decade, according to Bloomberg.

Starbucks chains are viewed as upmarket destinations in China, enabling the company to extract more profits from them. In some roastery stores, coffees can cost as much as $10, according to Barron's. (See also: Starbucks: We Open a New Store in China Every Day.)

Source: Joshua Trujillo / Starbucks Newsroom

The new roastery in Shanghai is expected to enhance Starbuck’s reputation as a go-to place for dates and business meetings at a time when some locals argue that the company is losing its premium branding.

Starbucks already has 600 stores in Shanghai, more than New York or London. Li Chaoxiang, a local investment banker, told FT that the company is losing its attraction as a special place to grab a coffee and bite to eat. “Starbucks is not a premium brand any more, as when it first came. Now in Shanghai you can see Starbucks anywhere.”

When other U.S. brands, such as McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) and Yum! Brands Inc.’s (YUM) KFC, reached this point they started to struggle, although Schultz is confident that Starbucks’s new roastery will help the company overcome this potential hurdle. “The ubiquity of those companies worked against them,” Schultz said of U.S. fast-food chains. “The roastery represents the ability to take the customer up.” (See also: McDonald's to Open 2,000 New Restaurants in China.)

Asia-Pacific accounted for nearly 15 percent of Starbucks’ revenue for the fiscal year ended in October, up from 5.5 percent five years earlier. Meanwhile, in the most recent quarter, same-store sales rose 8 percent in China, compared with 2 percent globally.

“This is an inflection point for the company where China will become a much more important component of the financial results of Starbucks,” Schultz told the FT, adding there would be “less dependence on the U.S. business” in the future.

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