BANGKOK — Starbucks said Monday it plans to open an outlet in Laos as it expands its network of more than 10,000 stores in Asian countries.
The company said it plans to open the shop in the Laotian capital Vientiane by next summer.
The outlet will be operated by Coffee Concepts (Laos) Ltd., a part of Hong Kong-based Maxim's Caterers Ltd. Starbuck said in a statement that it intends to use its global scale to have a positive impact and career opportunities in the impoverished, landlocked country bordered by Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and China.
"We are pleased to introduce the Starbucks brand into Laos, which further builds on our 20 year relationship with Starbucks to grow the coffee industry across Asia," said Michael Wu, Chairman and Managing Director, Maxim's Caterers Limited.
Many Laotians drink powdered coffee drinks that include milk and sugar, as is true across much of Asia, but the country of 7.2 million is a coffee exporter and has its own artisanal coffee roasters and shops.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Laos was drawing growing numbers of foreign tourists, with more than 4 million visiting in 2018. Local incomes have been rising, but still average around $300 a month.
The company said in a statement that it intends to take a "locally relevant approach" for its customers, both tourists and Laotions.
"We will take a thoughtful approach to driving sustainable growth in Laos and look forward to contributing to the country's vibrant coffee culture," Starbucks said.
Starbucks said it was monitoring the coronavirus situation but is still aiming at an opening in summer 2021.
Laos, a landlocked country bordered by Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and China, has so far reported only 24 COVID-19 infections, according to a tally kept by the Johns Hopkins University.
Such records are thought to understate the actual number of cases due to testing issues and large numbers of asymptomatic coronavirus cases. But pandemic precautions are severely limiting travel in the region.
"We will work closely with local health authorities, as we do in all markets, making decisions with the health of our partners and customers top of mind," Starbucks said.