Starbucks Might Introduce Pre-Orders Via App, But Will It Cut Your Wait In Line?

For all the times you’ve stomped into a Starbucks with a caffeine-craving dragon inside you that that needs to be slain before you can be expected to be a human being and found yourself instead thwarted by an impossibly long and frustrating line of customers in front of you, well, salvation might be on its way. Or maybe not. Dragons!

According to a report from MarketWatch, Starbucks is maybe, possibly and perhaps mulling the idea of tweaking its app (which lets you pay for orders on your smartphone) so customers could pre-order their drinks and pay for them before ever entering a store to pick them up.

During a media conference call this week, CEO Howard Schultz told reporters: “You can assume that over time we will lead in this area.”

And while a spokeswoman confirmed that express orders are something the company is working on, there’s no details about exactly how it will work as of yet.

But the big question on your mind is probably — “Will it save me any time in that damnable line to eternity?”

Eh, maybe not, a professor of engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tells MarketWatch. “There’s a risk of [orders] not being ready or cold.”

Which means maybe you won’t have to speak your order out loud to the barista but you’re still going to have to wait until someone actually makes it for your, or risk a cold latte. Unless a cold latte is what you wanted and then, congratulations!

Others in the food industry have had little success in speeding up lines with pre-order apps, notes MarketWatch, citing Seamless — an app that allows you to order food from restaurants in your neighborhood, also known as “I only have to put on pants to pay the delivery guy” service as an example:

In 2013, the average wait time for all restaurants was around 23 minutes, according to a 2013 report of 8,500 restaurant managers by Long Range Systems, or LRS, which supplies software to the hospitality industry. And over the last year, 54% said wait times actually increased, 15% said they stayed the same, while only 31% said they fell.

To answer the question we posed for ourselves — will that Starbucks line ever whittle itself down? Don’t get your hopes up. You’ll just have to learn to tame that caffeine dragon inside of you.

Previously: Starbucks Admits That Its iPhone Mobile Payment App stores Unencrypted Personal Info

Will pre-ordering shorten wait at Starbucks? [MarketWatch]

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  1. JoeBlow says:

    I was just speaking with a friend about an idea like this; maybe not “preorders” but configuring an order in the app, so it could be quickly scanned in, the barista reads it back to you, and your app can be scanned again for your payment card. That way you could have your own customized drink queued up without having to stop and explain everything; What base drink, what dairy/soy, whether you want artificial sweetened syrups or regular, whether you want whip cream, whether you want extra espresso shots, decaf, half-caf, etc. Also, correct spelling of your name (or your fake starbucks ordering alias). It would be good if they also show you the price of your choices so you don’t balk at the $9.50 price tag on that venti Frap with the soy upcharge and 4 shots poured over it when they ring you up. Probably also wouldn’t hurt to include calorie counts, and caffeine information. They could even let you save a few of your usual drinks in the app so you can pull them up without hassle. Ideally, they’d also have all the seasonal drinks listed as base drinks, but indicate which ingredients may be missing out of season. And maybe seasonal ingredients to configure into your plans when they’re available.

  2. SingleMaltGeek says:

    I like your idea, JoeBlow, but why scan anything if you can send the order over the Intarwebz? If people are worried about their drink getting cold….you can wait and place your order once you’re sitting in the store. That’s probably what I’d do. No line, no waiting in line, no worries about your order being correct, etc. And you can play/browse on your phone while you wait without worrying about holding up the line.