Starbucks is experimenting with new technology:

Imagine, if you will, this scenario:  It is 8:15 a.m., and you need to be at work in fifteen minutes.  You haven’t had your first cup of coffee.  You might even be a little grumpy.  You run into your local Starbucks, and you’re greeted by a painfully long line.  There are literally ten people ahead of you in line!  As you stand dutifully in line, a barista greets you and takes your order.  You’re still six people away from the registers!  The barista has in his or her hand an ordering device.  On the side facing the barista is a screen that appears to look like a sophisticated register screen.  The backside has a strap for the barista’s comfort in holding the machine.  The barista takes your order, “One short morning pick with walking room, and an oatmeal.”  Little do you know, the hand-held machine transmits the order information to the register area, and a labeler prints out the drink label for your  to-go cup.  When you walk up to the register, you just hand the barista your card, or scan your mobile phone payment.  (Of course there is the possibility that you might use cash to pay too.)

How does that sound to you?  Is this something you would like?

I’ve heard rumors that Starbucks would like to launch something like this in their very busiest stores, in places like New York City.   A very small test of this is already underway.  It’s only a test at this stage, and the idea is that this technology may improve  speed of service during the morning rush hour.  (If you like reading about test products at Starbucks, click here.)

Labelers have been around for a few years, but seem to have become more common recently.  Is this something Starbucks should do?

What do you think?  My own personal feelings are a little bit ambivalent on this.  I think eventually this is coming.  It might be later rather than sooner, but there’s such a powerful trend to automate in this fashion that I don’t think Starbucks can resist.  It seems like most people want something like this because speed of service is vital to so many.  Personally, I’m fine waiting an extra two minutes and to just tell my order to a barista, and see a cup and a sharpie, but that “touchology” of Starbucks is fading a bit.  I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t see any need for hand-held ordering devices, but I don’t see it as worth having a fight about either.

Before you make up your mind so fast about hand-held ordering devices, I recommend that you read this article by John Moore about Starbucks “touchology.”

^ Note that that is 2005 article written by a Starbucks marketing partner, and it discusses handheld ordering devices.

And one more article that is also critical reading, also from John Moore‘s blog:



It’ll be several days until I update the blog again.  Feel free to talk about anything Starbucks-related.