Stars: Almost identical cafe chain replaces Starbucks in Moscow

After Starbucks closed its stores in Moscow following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February, a nearby facsimile is now opening in its place.

The name – Stars Coffee – and the logo, a Starbucks mermaid twin wearing a Russian kokoshnik headdress instead of a crown, are virtually the same.

The menu, judging by the company’s app introduced a day before the store officially opens on Friday, would look familiar to any Starbucks customer.

Seattle-based Starbucks was one of the most visible in the wave of foreign companies that pulled out of Russia or suspended operations in response to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Others include McDonald’s, IKEA and fast fashion giant H&M.

The departure of these companies would have been a psychological blow to Russians who had grown accustomed to the comforts of a Western-style consumer culture. But Russian entrepreneurs saw an opportunity in the suddenly vacant stores.

Former McDonald’s outlets reopen and draw large crowds as Vkusno i Tochka, or It’s Tasty, Full-Stop. The menu testifies to the fact that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Yunus Yusupov, a popular rap artist who uses the stage name Timati, and restaurateur Anton Pinsky teamed up to buy Starbucks assets and took the copycat strategy one step further by giving the operation a name in English.

At a press conference on Thursday, they pledged to reopen all old Starbucks under their new identity and even expand the business.

The American company had built its Russian operation to around 130 stores since entering the country in 2007.

While the new operations’ close resemblance to their predecessors could be seen as a simple cut-and-paste of someone else’s inspiration and efforts and is questionable in terms of intellectual property, Starbucks and McDonald’s successors match also to a concept of national pride.

Since Russia has been hit by sanctions and foreign withdrawals, officials frequently argue that Russia will overcome by relying on its own resources and energies.

“Now the economic situation is tough, but it’s a time of opportunity,” Oleg Ekindarov, chairman of the holding company that partnered in the Starbucks deal, told state-run Tass news agency.

“For the past four months, we have been very actively looking for exiting companies like Starbucks. There are several other similar examples, but we can’t talk about them yet.”