Can Starbucks solve long-lines with automation?
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Can Starbucks solve long-lines with automation?

Starbucks’ Mobile Order and Pay app has been so successful that the company’s stores can’t keep up with the demand it’s generating. This is a bittersweet problem for the coffeehouse market leader: on the one hand, they don’t want customers having to wait in store. But on the other hand, an increase in sales that is so dramatic the staff can’t keep up is a problem most businesses would kill for.

Under new CEO Kevin Johnson, the company is brainstorming ways to deal with this influx of customers who prefer to pre-pay from far away, and just come into store to collect their drinks. Obvious routes that the company has committed to following up are increased investment into labour (i.e.: more baristas), and a reexamination of store traffic flow. But it is also preparing to unveil another solution that could help it manage orders more efficiently.

Starbucks has recently announced that it is trialing cashier- and seating-free ‘drop in’ stores, where its horde of mobile app enthusiasts can collect their coffee. This new store, which opens next week, “will be tailored specifically for convenience,” and is only available to Starbucks’ employees – at first, anyway.

If the store is a success, it’s a business model the company may consider rolling out around the world. But the staff using it needn’t fear replacement. There is no risk that the company would replace Starbucks’ default store design with these ‘drop in’ locations. Rather, they would act as a useful overflow for customers who have no need or desire for the traditional Starbucks experience.

Speaking to online magazine Eater, an unnamed spokesperson from the company said:

“If this Mobile Order and Pay model works it could be interesting as a future store model. As you can imagine, if we refine it, and let's say we do put them in other cities, it's an interesting opportunity to help build upon the growth we’re seeing [among Mobile Order and Pay app users. In the morning I use Mobile Order and Pay to pick up a quick cup before work, but in the afternoon, I might want to meet someone for coffee and then I would go to a traditional Starbucks to sit at a table.”


Dominion holds Starbucks in its Global Trends Luxury Fund.

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