Starbucks Is Now on the Rails… In Switzerland

European train travel has always conjured images of adventure or romance in classic movies. But in America, trips by rail seem to be more about getting from point A to point B. Now Starbucks has set out to capture the cachet of Continental railway voyages by branding a café car on the InterCity train from Geneva’s airport to St. Gallen in Switzerland.

Starbucks is also continuing its expansion plan to serve customers worldwide in community gathering spots using local designs. In 2001 the brand established a Swiss retail presence, and now they have 53 stores in the country. They partnered with Swiss Federal Railways, aka SBB, on this venture. Here the SBB initials don’t signify “Starbucks brand building”; they’re the Swiss-German translation of the national railway’s name. Switzerland was Starbucks’ first outpost in Continental Europe, and now this is the first train in the world with a Starbucks café.

SBB said their objectives are to enhance the on-board experience for their passengers by offering new food and beverage selections on Swiss trains.”Starbucks’ popularity in Switzerland spoke for our cooperation”, said Jeannine Pilloud, director of SBB’s passenger transportation. “We want our customers to enjoy a pleasant journey and to feel at home while traveling with us”, she added. Pilloud spoke during a recent preview in Zurich, as reported by Swiss media outlets.

The train cafe combines key branding elements and colors from both organizations, and the design process took two years. The design challenges were notable, including the “constant movement of the train, space limitations and stringent safety regulations”, according to Liz Muller, Starbucks’ creative director of global design. “This is one of the smallest espresso bars and stores we have ever designed”, she said.

The outside of the red and white train car features the familiar siren logo and Starbucks name. Icons depicting menu items are highlighted on train windows. The interior of the train café car, designed to seat up to 50 passengers, is divided into two levels. Downstairs, Starbucks trademark baristas will serve from behind a curved wooden bar. Upstairs is a lounge area for travelers to relax on club chairs and shared tables, and they can also order drinks from there.

The inaugural voyage is scheduled today for 6:36 in the morning, local Swiss time. The test project will run for nine months before a decision is made whether to extend the service to other routes. With dials resembling watch faces built into the lounge level tables, those facsimile timepieces will serve as reminders for café patrons to keep track if the train departs as planned.

(Images courtesy of Starbucks)