If you plan to visit China, you may have to decide between Luckin Coffee vs. Starbucks. This article covers the two coffee giants in the Chinese market.
While Starbucks has become a global giant in the coffee industry, a significant competitor has been dogging their steps in the Chinese market for the past several years. Luckin Coffee stores first started opening in Beijing and Shanghai in 2018, and they’ve continued expanding to meet Starbucks’ market presence in China.
But while the battle certainly doesn’t seem to be entirely over, there are some big questions to ask about which coffee shop chain offers the better proposition, products, and experience. You'll learn more about the major Starbucks competitor in China through this article and discover which experience will leave you happier if you’re in the country, looking for a cup of coffee.
What Is Luckin Coffee?
While Starbucks is a familiar logo to most coffee lovers, not many people outside of China are likely aware of Luckin Coffee, mainly because the brand hasn’t had the opportunity to expand out of the country as yet. Founded in 2017, with their first stores opening in 2018, they’ve nonetheless expanded to meet Starbucks’ market presence in China, with over 4,000 stores in-country by 2020.
The newcomer company, Luckin Coffee, has suffered more recently as scandals have racked the brand: accusations of inflated valuations, along with fraud and other issues, have put a damper on the Chinese company’s efforts to challenge Starbucks. But the growing brand is fighting to get back on track, and they’re maintaining a solid presence.
What Luckin Coffee And Starbucks Have In Common
As mentioned before, both Luckin and Starbucks are cafe/coffee shop chains, with Luckin based in China and Starbucks an increasingly global operation. As a result, they both offer some similar products: various coffee drinks, tea, and food items tailored to the tastes of the Chinese public. But where both brands offer a similar concept, there are still some strong differences.
Luckin Coffee Vs. Starbucks: The Differences
While Starbucks does offer region-specific drinks in every country it operates in, one of the key features of the Starbucks M.O. is its roster of base beverages. Luckin Coffee takes a different approach, leaning all-in on Chinese tastes and preferences with experimental and offbeat combinations like americanos laced with sparkling water and flavors like mandarin orange and elderflower–or iced tea beverages topped with highly trendy whipped, sweetened cream cheese.
There are also crucial differences in how the two companies position themselves, with Starbucks focusing on high quality, high-status options in counter to Luckin Coffee’s more down-to-earth, humble offerings and prices.
What’s Better About Luckin Coffee?
If you’re in China and looking for a coffee fix, Luckin Coffee has some key features that set it apart from Starbucks. Apart from the menu–fully influenced by Chinese tastes and constantly adapted and tweaked to customer feedback–Luckin Coffee is as much about the app experience as about the products you buy.
You don’t go into the shop to place your order: instead, you order online or through the company app and get it delivered. Luckin Coffee is also very fond of discounts and coupons, making it a budget-friendly choice.
What’s Better About Starbucks?
Starbucks’ operation in China is–just like its operations elsewhere–all about the quality and the easy comfort of the European coffee shop experience. Classic coffee drinks, straightforward, American and European-influenced eats, and ambiance sets Starbucks apart from Luckin Coffee. Starbucks focuses on the traditional and high-value aspects of the coffee shop experience, compared to convenience and trends.
Who Should Get Luckin Coffee?
Anyone looking for a Chinese-influenced coffee adventure, complete with the thrill of ordering in a completely new format and the convenience of delivery, should choose Luckin Coffee. While the flavor combinations may not be something you’re used to, they’re definitely worth exploring, and you might discover a beloved new taste that you might not have otherwise tried.
Who Should Get Starbucks Coffee?
If you want to order your Starbucks “Usual” while you’re in China, you’re likely to be able to do that. You can also branch out and sample something the coffee giant has developed specifically for the Chinese market–whether food or drink. For the comfort of the familiar, and if you’re not looking to save money above all else, Starbucks in China is the better selection.