Starbucks in Russia has recently been reopened as Stars Coffee by pro-Putin rapper Timati and restaurateur Anton Pinskiy. The pair acquired the rights to the coffee chain in Russia previously owned by Starbucks and operated by its licensee Alshaya Group of Kuwait.

Timati and Pinskiy attended the launch of the first of the 130 cafes in central Moscow. A part of its rebranding, the chain’s new logo was unveiled by the duo: a woman sporting the traditional Russian kokoshnik headdress, an image that still closely resembles the original. It won’t fool anyone, but the blatant brand-theft must be aimed at transitioning previous Starbucks patrons to the new chain.

Copying a logo and a menu is one thing, but copying all the business-established operations is going to be harder.

According to the company app, which was released a day before the store’s formal opening, the menu would be familiar to any Starbucks customers.

The company hopes to trade off the millions in investment that Starbucks made in establishing its brand in the country. We shouldn’t be surprised at the move, but whether the new company can operate at scale has yet to be seen. Copying a logo and a menu is one thing, but copying all the business-established operations is going to be harder.

We have a chance not just to change the sign, but to make a real live case of a cool import substitution!

Timati, Rapper & Entrepreneur

At a press conference held on opening day, the Stars Coffee owners promised to reopen all former Starbucks locations under the new name and expand the business. Since its entry into Russia in 2007, the coffee giant had grown its operations in the country to around 130 stores.

The Russian authorities encourage Russian businesspeople to buy out western companies who are selling their assets at a loss in a rush to the exit after the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The intent is to communicate continuity to ordinary citizens who had become used to western lifestyles at a time when the country is becoming increasingly isolated from Europe and the U.S.

Now the economic situation is difficult, but this is a time of opportunity. For the past four months, we have been very actively looking at exiting companies following the example of Starbucks. There are several more similar examples, but we cannot talk about them yet.

Oleg Eskindarov, president of the holding company that partnered in the Starbucks deal (source: AP)

Starbucks said in May that it was leaving the Russian market, joining other well-known western companies that had already left the country in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Photo by Maxim Shemetov/REUTERS

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