Starbucks is so successful in one area that even Apple should be jealous

There’s no question — Starbucks’ mobile pay program is the best in the business.

One in five of all Starbucks transactions in the US are now mobile, the company reported in late October. Mobile users have grown 32% since last year, accounting for 5 million orders a month.

Starbucks’ explosive mobile growth has attracted the attention of tech giant Apple, reports Wired. While Apple Pay experienced an immediate explosion in users when it launched last year, in recent months growth has slowed.

So, it makes sense that Apple would announce in October that it is partnering with the coffee chain, with plans to roll out Apple Pay as a form of payment at all 7,500 Starbucks locations in the US in 2016.

Until now, Starbucks loyalty members have only been able to earn “stars” for free coffee by paying with the Starbucks app. However, with the Apple Pay deal as well as partnerships with the New York Times, Spotify, and Lyft, the loyalty program is on its way to becoming a much more all-encompassing experience.

“We are in the process of building capability to offer stars everywhere,” Starbucks global chief strategy officer Matthew Ryan told Wired. “That is, the opportunity for customers to essentially earn stars at a lot of different places and take them back to Starbucks.”

Starbucks mobile orderStarbucks, via The Motley FoolStarbucks mobile order and pay.

If that happens, there’s a possibility for Apple Pay to tap into a 20 million strong loyalty program, not only when users are buying coffee, but also any time they need to buy something at a store where Apple Pay is available.

Starbucks’ position as a tech darling in the food industry is one that other restaurant chains envy — and are trying to emulate. In October, Chipotle tapped its first ever chief information officer: Curt Garner, who previously held the very same role at Starbucks.

Of course, Starbucks is always one step ahead. The company hired Adobe Systems CIO Gerri Martin-Flickinger as the company’s first chief technology office less than a week before Chipotle announced Garner’s hiring.

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