More than 4 out of 5 new Starbucks are drive-thrus, and the coffee giant wants to open even more

Tom Ackerman, StarbucksStarbucks is doubling down on drive-thrus.
  • More than 80% of new Starbucks locations that opened in the last year in the United States featured drive-thrus.
  • Starbucks plans to continue to focus on drive-thrus, which are significantly outperforming the chain’s overall sales, the company reported Thursday.
  • The rise of the drive-thru puts Starbucks in an interesting position as the chain balances community and convenience.

Starbucks is doubling down on drive-thrus.

More than 80% of the new Starbucks locations opened in fiscal 2018 in the United States were drive-thrus, the company reported on Thursday. Stores with drive-thrus “well outperformed” overall comparable sales, and the company plans to continue to focus on drive-thrus in the coming year.

Additionally, Starbucks announced that drive-thru and mobile orders now make up more than half of all orders, an increase of more than 10% over the last two years.

The rise of the drive-thru puts Starbucks in an interesting position. Historically, much of the brand’s cachet has been its claims that it builds community between customers and employees.


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However, in recent years, an increasing proportion of customers prioritise convenience over community. Further, Starbucks has struggled to boost traffic, which dropped 1% in the US in the most recent quarter. Drive-thrus are a convenient way to increase the number of orders that can be processed without overstuffing stores with customers.

“We continue to grow transactions at peak and we showed modest improvement in the afternoon daypart,” Chief Operating Officer Roz Brewer said on a call with investors on Thursday. “This resulted in improved one-year and two-year transaction comp in the quarter.”

Brewer continued: “At the same time, we continue to balance community and our commitment to the third place while serving the growing demand for convenience.”

On Thursday, Starbucks reported fourth-quarter revenue of $US6.3 billion, exceeding the $US6.27 billion expectation from Bloomberg. Same-store sales in the US increased 4%, beating expectations of 2% to 3%.

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