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Starbucks' New Drive-Thru Video Screens Bring You Face-to-Face With Your Barista

The screens will show a barista inside the store who will take the customer's order.

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The only thing worse than waiting in line at Starbucks is waiting in line in your car at a Starbucks drive-thru. The coffee company hopes to ease that pain by installing video screens and new ordering modules designed to speed up service and emphasize what it calls its "customer-barista connection," according to Starbucks spokesperson Haley Drage, who spoke with Bloomberg about the move.

Video screens will be added to 2,400 Starbucks drive-thru lanes over the next year.

Bloomberg reports that video screens will be added to 2,400 Starbucks drive-thru lanes in the U.S. over the next year. It's an effort to "revamp a decades-old ordering system" that Starbucks sees as central to how its employees interact with guests. In addition to seeing the barista, customers in the drive-thru lane will also see their order appear on the screen before they pay.

It's very clearly an extension of Starbucks embrace of new technology in order to improve the quality and timeliness of its service. Apparently Starbucks has already been testing these video monitors in its drive-thrus in Seattle. Though they aren't quite as high tech as Starbucks' new mobile order & pay ahead app, the video screens are something other restaurant chains may adopt. Bloomberg notes that compared to McDonald's, Starbucks' drive-thru business represents a small chunk of its overall sales. Could other drive-thru operators see potential for video screens? McDonald's and Burger King have not responded to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, CEO Howard Schultz is growing his business on the basis of "the experience in our stores." He said during an investor conference earlier this year, "And our stores come to life by our people." Will people on a video screen successfully mimic the in-store, in-person experience? Starbucks is betting that answer is yes.

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