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Starbucks Testing Handheld POS for Drive-Thru as Expansion Looms

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
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Starbucks is developing and testing drive-thru forward solutions as its drive thru sales have jumped more than 10% from pre-pandemic levels.

U.S. stores with drive-thrus saw a slight improvement in out-the-window times and delivered positive comps throughout Starbucks’ Q1 2021, president and CEO Kevin Johnson said, driving over half of net sales in the quarter.

“These results give us confidence that our targeted initiatives to unlock capacity and enhance the customer experience at our drive-thru locations are boosting our business recovery while strengthening our foundation for future growth,” said Johnson.

COO Roz Brewer, who was recently named Walgreen’s next CEO, noted drive-thru is the coffee giant’s most productive model.

“In our go forward position, you'll see an increased number of drive-thrus that we're building in the Central United States and across the Southeast and the Southwest,” said Brewer. “So, drive-thru in terms of the numbers will grow.”

Brewer said Starbucks is developing and testing some drive-thru forward solutions, which includes handheld point of sale (POS). Currently Starbucks has around 300 drive-thru stores with handheld POS and expects to increase that to 500 stores by the end of February.

“So we're also adding to that the tech improvement to make orders more easily managed through our consolidation and handoff,” she noted. “We call that our bump bar replacement.”

In addition, Starbucks is targeting the renovation of 150 drive-thru constraint stores that have issues ranging from meeting the new productivity model or removing pastry cases, fixing single point of sales and more. The retailer is also working on drive-thru-only stores that have no seating, very small units, and side-by-side drive-thru lanes.

“We've got considerable work in this area to unlock the full potential for drive-thru,” Brewer concluded.

Starbucks said last June it would increase "convenience-led" formats in company-operated locations over the next 18 months, with drive-thru and curbside pickup options, as well as Starbucks Pickup locations. Drive-thru expansion plans included including opening new locations outside of densely populated cities and in new markets.

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