- On Tuesday, Starbucks opened its first-ever Starbucks Pickup store, a pickup-only location that lets customers order ahead through the chain’s mobile app and pick up their orders in-store.
- I visited the Starbucks Pickup store, which is located in Manhattan, New York, and was impressed by the concept.
- Pickup’s speedy, high-tech system for ordering coffee could definitely transform the fast-coffee industry. But Starbucks needs to make the concept more accessible to walk-ins, and the company must work hard to build customer awareness before the Pickup concept will run as smoothly as it’s supposed to.
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“I want my coffee now” is probably a phrase as common as “Are we there yet?” and “Let’s check on our order to make sure they haven’t forgotten us.”
In a world where everything from delivery to internet speeds is getting faster, it makes sense that people would want their coffee faster, too. On Tuesday, Starbucks launched a new kind of store to meet that need: Starbucks Pickup.
Starbucks Pickup is a pickup-only store that allows customers to order their drinks ahead through the Starbucks app, then come to the store to pick them up.
“Our customers who are on-the-go have told us that connection and convenience are important to them,” Starbucks’ vice president of urban markets, Katie Young, said in a press release.
I went to the first-ever Starbucks Pickup store, located in Manhattan, to see what the experience was like:
I actually went to three other Starbucks before I found this one, because all I knew about it was that it was in Penn Plaza, where there are three other Starbucks. When I got to the correct store, I had to look closely to make sure I was in the right place.
This Starbucks sign could easily be missed if one wasn’t actively looking for it.
The space looked nothing like a traditional Starbucks. It was about as big as a large bedroom, and there was no seating.
But I was impressed by the sleek and futuristic design. The curved wood panels and living plants made for a comforting environment, even if I wasn’t going to stay very long.
At the store’s entrance, there was a screen that displayed the status of customers’ orders. Next to it was a set of instructions on how to use the app to order coffee and pick it up from the store.
The store was very bare-bones, with none of the usual last-minute goodies, home-brew coffee bags, and branded mugs that pepper the shelves of a traditional Starbucks.
The only furniture item was the condiments island, which had also received a minimalist redesign.
I had the Starbucks app downloaded, although I hadn’t used it before. I had to create a new account to order. I manually unsubscribed from marketing emails.
But when I tried to pay, I got an error message. I notified a staff member, and she told me that sometimes it was necessary to connect to the store’s WiFi, as cell data often wasn’t sufficient to get an order through.
In order to log into the WiFi, I had to input my name, email address, and zip code. But finally, the error was resolved and my drink was on its way.
An employee asked if I wanted a picture with my name on the order screen. I acquiesced.
The store was fairly empty even though it was opening day. I wondered if it had something to do with the minimal branding on the store’s exterior. But it seemed like Starbucks was doing all it could to ease its customers into the idea of a pickup-only store. Several corporate employees had been flown in from Seattle to keep an eye on the opening.
I was surprised to learn that the store actually does take in-store orders, which will be a boon to any unlucky coffee craver with a malfunctioning app. A panel in the counter slid back to reveal a hidden ordering system.
When a drink was ready, its status updated to “READY” on the order tracking screens, and it came out onto a tiered, mint-green shelf.
Starbucks Pickup will be perfect for regular Starbucks customers who want to grab their coffee and go. However, the system is still a little unwieldy for casual customers and walk-ins. During my visit, I saw several people pop in, look confusedly at the store, and leave shortly after.
The store’s main issue is that it isn’t accessible to casual walk-ins, but that could change if Starbucks invests in building similar stores across the country and building awareness. Once people know what a Starbucks Pickup store is and how to use it, the Pickup concept has the potential to transform how people buy their coffee.
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