Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Starbucks Stores Overwhelmed By Mobile Orders

Earlier today, after writing about the discomfort and guilt I feel when using push-button service apps, I remembered this article from the end of January. Lisa Baertlein, Reuters:

Starbucks’ coffee shops are suffering from a feared consequence of the mobile revolution: the digital world can dump an avalanche of orders in a short period of time, creating delays and lines that scare away customers.

Starbucks Corp is an early adopter of mobile order and payment technology that the U.S. restaurant industry hopes will boost sales while reducing the burden of rising labor costs.

But baristas at the company’s busiest cafes had difficulty keeping up with mobile orders in the latest quarter, creating bottlenecks at drink delivery stations and leading some walk-in customers to walk out.

Reuters being a business-oriented publication, this article mostly focuses on Starbucks’ lost potential customers. But can you imagine what it’s like to be a barista facing an onslaught of mobile orders?

If you’ve ever worked in a coffee shop, you’ll be familiar with the rhythm you can develop between the person at the till and the person making drinks. As a person making drinks, you’re counting on the banter at the cash register as a time buffer. Without that, employees are reduced to the frantic and robotic movements that are required to churn drinks out.

I don’t think anyone who places a mobile order from the Starbucks app is necessarily cognizant of this. They’re probably thrilled with the convenience, and rightly so. But the ease of a mobile order comes with a hidden human cost, and we ought to be more understanding of that.