Last week I posted on the challenges Starbucks was having with an increasing number of mobile orders. Now, it seems that the company is going to test a different approach: A location that only takes mobile orders (Starbucks to test mobile order and pay-only store at headquarters, Mar 30, Reuters).
Starbucks’ headquarters has two cafes that serve the more than 5,000 company employees who work there. One of those cafes, which is available only to company employees, is among its top three stores in the United States for mobile ordering.
Mobile orders from the building will be routed to the new store, which will have a large window where customers can pick up drinks and see them being made.
(A hat tip here to long-time reader Arie Goldshlager for letting me know about this one.)
So does this solve the problem? In a way, maybe. A mobile-only location would see a more uniform type of work in the sense that everyone would have the same expectation about waiting times etc. That eliminates questions of whether or not one should prioritize mobile or regular orders. However, there are a couple of caveats. For example, if the reason for a long delay is inadequate capacity, then this does not really solve the problem. That is, if the reason mobile orders take over 10 minutes during the morning rush is not enough baristas, then forcing everyone to order using their smartphone is unlikely to make a big dent in that wait.
A second consideration is whether this would work outside of the company’s headquarters. Starbucks might reasonably suppose that all of its employees use its app. In a standard location, not everyone may be so willing to commit to the app. That would almost certainly cost them some customers. In effect, it would reduce a store to being only for “regulars.” Starbucks might be OK with that if it keeps those regulars happy, but it might be problematic at locations where loyalists are a relatively small part of the customer base.
Further there is the consideration that only allowing mobile ordering moves a location close to being a glorified vending machine. I do not really want a deep conversation with the barista, but the thought of a Starbucks where there is no interaction with the staff is rather odd and impersonal for that has long aspired to be a third place.