Starbucks tests video chat drive thru ordering.

by Melody on February 17, 2013

Video ordering at the Starbucks drive thru is here.  Starbucks has been working on refining and expanding their video technology, and now has implemented it in a number of their drive thru stores.  From what I hear, there are several Washington State Starbucks that have the video ordering technology, as well as an area in Nevada also testing the video ordering.

One location with the video ordering is the Burien drive thru store at 15838 – 1st Avenue South, in Burien.  It’s Starbucks store number 3217.  Before I go any further, I will mention that my normal mode of transportation to a Starbucks is on foot, or sometimes bus.  At the moment, I have no car.   So as it is, the drive thru feels extremely foreign to me.  I loved the ability to see the person taking my order.  It made the whole experience so much friendlier and personable.

I persuaded a good friend that we needed to take an excursion to Burien, Washington, and so from the passenger seat, I had the good fun of seeing face to face video ordering technology in action.  I took a few pictures with my phone.  I would love to know what you think!

I categorized this article under the test products category.  You can browse through and see everything from test salads, new beverages such as the marshmallow mocha, or read about the previous Peach Iced Green Tea Lemonade test.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris W. February 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm

I’m a fan of this concept. I’m a store manager of a drive-thru location, and we constantly talk about our partners needing to ‘smile’ through the headset for the customers. Unfortunately, in a busy location, our order-taking partner is often multi tasking while talking to the customer (pouring coffee, grabbing pastries, organizing orders, etc.), and wouldn’t be able to do so if ‘stuck’ in front of a camera. This might slow down service over time, which is why I’m sure this is only a test for now. I’ll be interested in seeing how it evolves over time.

Nick Nelson February 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Pretty cool. When I was in Houston I drove through quite a few Starbucks, but in Seattle I really don’t drive often…but when I think of drivethrus I think robotic voices and a new digital video/digital audio (I assume the audio is up to par with video) will be nice.

Melody February 17, 2013 at 3:52 pm

@Chris W. You make great points – And something I didn’t write in the blog but I’ll mention here: After going through the DT, my friend and I went inside. Seattle is a very small town and oddly the friend I was with already knew the ASM! The ASM commented that there seems to be a slight speed of service – but mostly because now that customers can see the barista, they want to linger a minute and chat! Being able to see the person encourages conversation!

LatteRose February 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm

I go to this store every great once in a while, and I DID like this when I first encountered it – it feels warmer/fuzzier, more personable. A thumb’s up from me!

Stacy February 17, 2013 at 8:51 pm

The Elliott DT, on 15th Ave, just north of downtown Seattle has video ordering!

Melody February 17, 2013 at 8:54 pm

@Stacy – I am totally having a face – palm moment. I see that I have been missing a lot by NEVER using the DT!

MagicKat February 17, 2013 at 9:21 pm

My store has the camera and it’s actually pretty fun. So many people look up (about halfway through their order), ‘Omigosh! I can SEE you! Can you see me? Wow! This is cool!’
So far the feedback is really positive on the customer side.
Deployment can be challenging, but during busy times you have a barista standing in front of the camera anyway and during slow times the DT register partner can take the order.
The biggest takeaway for me so far is order accuracy. It’s much much easier for new partners to get customers to repeat their order when it’s more of a face-to-face situation. Customers can see when we are confused or busily hitting buttons on the register to get in all of the modifiers and they seem to have more patience with us.
The biggest challenge, surprisingly, is smiling. Many partners are uncomfortable smiling at the camera, it takes some getting used to.

Melody February 17, 2013 at 9:25 pm

@MagicKat – Let me face – palm one more time, and then you can slap me too. You SEE I have been missing quite a bit by not having a car. I should have figured out a long time ago that there were a number of these video order screens in Western Washington. It sounds like everything about the new technology is plus – I hadn’t even thought about the drink accuracy thing. Love it.

By the way, smiling helps in nearly every single profession!

tricia February 18, 2013 at 5:29 am

Oh, I’m so sharing this on the Critters And Crayons Facebook Page. :) So cool!

purple1 February 18, 2013 at 5:58 am

What an absolutely great idea! How large is the video screen? I think having the interaction with the drive through partner is just so wonderful. I suppose the only downside is if the customer engages too long in a conversation I can see honking of horns! But, I love it.

KDH February 18, 2013 at 6:21 am

This wouldn’t fly at my store. We’d have to have another person on deployment to stand there at the camera…we’re just too busy to have our DTO person standing still!

Melody February 18, 2013 at 8:29 am

@KDH – I’d try it before saying it won’t work. You never know!
@Purple1 – The video screen is about the size of a large laptop screen, and both the audio and visual are very good.
@Tricia – I REALLY appreciate that you shared this! I hope more people will share this!

KDH February 18, 2013 at 9:59 am

We’ll never get this at my store, anyhow. They installed the “new” DT timing system nearly a year ago and installed it wrong. It was never fixed, so we have all these pieces of extra hardware/monitors on our walls that do nothing. They can’t fix anything correctly, let alone something as technologically advanced as this!

Kris February 18, 2013 at 11:32 am

Is there a way for the partners to see the customers? It seems it would give employees and odd feeling staring at a video camera.

Melody February 18, 2013 at 11:33 am

@Kris – The Starbucks baristas have always been able to see you! I know that many did not realize that there was video on them at the DT, but yes they can see you, and have been able to do so for a long while now.

Kris February 18, 2013 at 11:38 am

Sorry, I meant “an odd feeling”….

taehreh February 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Neat. I haven’t seen anything like this around where I live yet. Although one drive through has just a window so you can talk to the barista directly. I think I would prefer the window approach over video… but this is still cool.

Taylor de Sa February 18, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I just love this idea. I hope you Americans like it so they decide to bring it to Toronto. I would choose Starbucks even more often if I could order from my car.

Kris February 18, 2013 at 4:32 pm

@Melody I guess that makes a lot of since for security reasons as well!

Michelle February 18, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I think this is a really cool idea, though I can see it being problematic if the DTO is off doing other things (ie running for coffee or to the oven). I spent a lot of my time as DTO answering from various parts of the store. Or sometimes customers would ask me for a newspaper which would require me to leave the drive thru area, walk all the way to the back of the store to get into the cafe and all the way back up to the front of the store again to get the paper and back… I’d often take two or three orders in that amount of time.

I can definitely see this improving friendliness scores and overall satisfaction on customer voice though!

MagicKat February 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm

@KDH My store is the highest volume store in our district; and in the Pacific Northwest that’s saying something. Deployment changes dramatically when you have to have a planted DTO, but it is not impossible. I’m sorry that your equipment was installed incorrectly. That’s a real shame, the new timing software is very helpful for scheduling once you learn how to read it.

@Melody I don’t have a car either, so no worries. :)

@Michelle During peak we have a planted DTO, but for the rest of the day the register partner and bar partner have headsets so, if you are elbows deep in dish water or snagging a panini, they can hop over to the camera and answer.

Michelle February 21, 2013 at 4:41 am

Totally see your point, but having the bar partner hop off the bar to the camera would seriously impede beverage repeatable routine.

I’m not in a drive thru store anymore, so this doesn’t affect me. It just seems to me that there are instances where it might be very difficult to be in front of the camera all the time.

Melody, out of curiosity what time of day did you go through? You were probably there on a weekend right?

Tim McCarthy February 21, 2013 at 8:44 am


Does anyone know who is providing this technology? We provide the best sound quality in the business of Drive-thru Headsets and would like to learn more about this Video technology.

Tim McCarthy

Bea February 21, 2013 at 10:44 am

I’m all for technology, but a bigger fan of exceptional service, so to this new concept I would say, if a person wants to see the barista….go inside the store. The drive through is designed for “speed of service,” and we should not delay customers behind us, while we want to experience the latest new piece of equipment. Let’s focus on customer engagement by listening intently to the order and processing it correctly. Starbucks tend to have customer oriented associates, so we definitely know other brands SHOULD NOT TRY THIS!!!!!

Bill Corrick May 30, 2013 at 10:41 am

The video actually provides faster speed of service. By recognizing regular customers, you already know what they want. Also you do not need to stand in front of the camera at all times, only when you need better communication.
Try taking a customers order on the inside front counter with your eyes closed. That is what it is like at the drive-thru without visual communication.
You don’t stand in front of the customer on the front counter either.
The customers also “sees” you moving about in front of the camera and can tell how busy you are, and they order accordingly. We have had to replace our camera and it took two days to order a new one. My partners found it so more difficult to take drive-thru orders and one said, ” how can I do it I can’t see the customer, and I said, ” that is how the rest of the drive-thru world does it and now you know why drive-thrus have so much problems.
When you look at someone and smile they smile back.
Fast, Friendly, Drive-thru service with Two-Way Visual Communication
Call 641-472-7833 ask for Bill or Holly

Karr February 26, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Give us iPads or other tablets for mobile order input before sticking me in front of a camera please. I don’t know that the pressure to speed up our service will lessen with customers being excited about seeing us. I might as well be outside taking orders directly from cars, which sounds like a cheaper and easier way to provide this service.

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