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One cup at a time

Released at: 14:20, 09/03/2015

One cup at a time

Ms. Patricia Marques, General Manager of Starbucks Coffee Company in Vietnam, leads a team of Vietnamese professionals and is trying her best to extend the brand's presence in Vietnam.

by Linh San

In late January 2013, Starbucks Coffee Company opened its flagship Starbucks store in Vietnam, marking the beginning of the iconic global brand's Vietnam journey. Today their development schedule is ahead of plan, with eight stores in Ho Chi Minh City and four in Hanoi. Ms. Patricia Marques, General Manager of Starbucks Coffee Company in Vietnam, told VET that she is extremely happy with the growth and anticipates the schedule will continue to proceed as planned.

Happiness at work

Ms. Marques was a Starbucks Partner for ten years from 1993 to 2003. She had an amazing time while the company was growing at an amazing pace. She had the opportunity to work in different roles, mostly in the international side of the business. But then she left the company and went to do other things in the food & beverage and fashion industries. She returned to Starbucks in May 2012 (in the Hong Kong Regional Office) and soon after was offered the job of General Manager of the Vietnam business. "Of course I accepted and came back to this wonderful country as head of a brand I am passionate about," she said.

In her view, business in Vietnam is no different than in other developing countries, with a constantly changing environment making it challenging yet interesting. "Staying alert, always being open minded and willing to adapt is absolutely necessary to overcome the difficulties," she believes. She leads a team of Vietnamese professionals that have demonstrated how flexible and adaptable they are. Having such backing and knowing they are strong as a team makes the challenges manageable. "We trust each other, we consult and we take action," she added.

After two years, Starbucks' business performance in Vietnam has been positive. They have stores both inside and outside of the CBD, in District 7 and Phu Nhuan district in Ho Chi Minh City and in Cau Giay district in Hanoi, which ensure they are part of local neighborhoods in the country. This year she anticipates a greater presence in different areas in the cities and looks forward to having stores throughout Vietnam. "Customers and partners have embraced the brand, and look forward to our variety of products at each of our stores," Ms Marques said.

Her strategy for Starbucks in Vietnam has not changed. "One store, one neighborhood, one cup at a time," she said. "Our main focus is to gather the best team for the store, train them and make sure they feel comfortable with the tasks ahead. After that we go on to the next store. We believe in our people, our product and our absolute conviction that our customers need to be fully satisfied, 100 per cent of the time!"

She affirmed that the core value and vision making business successful is respect. "Being truthful to oneself and others and embracing life," she said. Happiness is her motto; she goes to work for happiness, she greets people with a smile and she likes to do business in harmony with others.

Goals in Vietnam

"I am passionate about many things, probably the one I am the most passionate about is making sure I do my best, every time, all the time! I don't like mediocrity and I push myself to be the best possible."

Ms. Patricia Marques, General Manager of Starbucks Coffee Company in Vietnam

Her first time to Vietnam was in October 2010 and except for the six months in Hong Kong has been here ever since. She is excited and feels privileged to be in the country that has embraced the Starbucks brand so much. "Personally, I couldn't be happier! Vietnam is such a wonderful place to live, my team of talented Vietnamese professionals is amazing and growing with the organization, and we all work towards one goal: ensuring our customers are satisfied with our service and products," she said.

Loving Vietnam, she understands the country where Starbucks has opened stores. In her view, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are quite different in many aspects, such as weather, daily routines, and consumer behavior. "The differences make these markets interesting and our teams challenged and aware of adaptations needed," she said. "Always at the top of our mind is that we want to be part of the neighborhood, so we adapt."

Starbucks definitely plans to open stores in different cities and provinces, but while they plan to extend their presence in Vietnam Ms. Marques is also very mindful of their operation and supply chain needs. "Every market requires thoughtful development and careful planning," she explained. "Vietnam has many interesting cities and we are looking into all to ensure our selections make sense and we deliver outstanding customer service and all of our products, no exception," she said.

She sees Vietnam as having potential for foreign beverage brands. "Vietnam is such a dynamic country; young and energetic," she said. "Vietnamese people are savvy consumers, in touch with brands from around the world."

Instead of looking at the challenges facing Starbucks in the country, Ms. Marques prefers to view them as opportunities for the brand to better integrate into the local community and the distinctive lifestyle pursuits of her local consumers. Starbucks will be learning new things from Vietnam's coffee heritage and culture and she and her team are committed to delivering a locally relevant Starbucks experience, one that reflects the Starbucks brand as well as Vietnam's rich culinary heritage.

She knows that Vietnam has a strong and established coffee tradition and believes the local market is growing multifold and that there is room for many coffee houses that meet different customer needs. "We continue to have deep respect for the other specialty coffee houses already operating in the market and we know that, together, we can further elevate Vietnam's specialty coffee house market and bring more choice and coffee enjoyment to local consumers," she said. "I can confirm that we are looking at thoughtful, disciplined growth that sets us up for long-term success in the market," she said. "Starbucks is investing in Vietnam for the long term and we are excited to enter this dynamic and vibrant market."

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