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Starbucks Is Testing Curbside Pickup

Get ready for even more coffee traffic jams

Starbucks Invests Heavily In Drive-Thru Market Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Five-dollar latte drinkers may never wait in line again — at least if Starbucks has anything to say about it. On the heels of the 2015 launch of its mobile order and pay service, the coffee chain is now testing curbside pickup at a store in Snoqualmie, Washington.

The test is an extension of the brand’s popular mobile order and pay system, which allows customers to order — and pay for — their drink and food orders ahead of time via the company’s app. When they get to Starbucks, their drink is waiting at the bar, no standing in line required.

Curbside pickup works similarly — but rather than coming inside, customers don’t even have to leave their vehicles.

The test is only being conducted at one location, and will last for six weeks. According to an employee at the Snoqualmie Starbucks, curbside service has so far been “really slow, with usually no more than one person at a time.” She estimates that only about five people used the service the first day it was launched.

Customers using the service can’t simply park in the lot, as that would be dangerous for baristas. Instead, the Snoqualmie store has an area near the front of the store designated just for curbside pickups, with several signs and a large curb with room for two cars. “Someone with a headset will come to your car, greet you, ask you your name, and then relay that information to a barista inside, who will bring out your order,” says the worker.

Convenient? Sure, but it also sounds like a logistical nightmare, particularly if it were rolled out in stores that also have a drive-thru (the Snoqualmie location does not). Most Starbucks stores are already pretty crowded, especially at peak times. Add the traffic from a drive-thru and curbside parking to that, and things could seemingly get exponentially worse.

When local website Living Snoqualmie reported on the launch of the service, commenters voiced those concerns, writing, “I can imagine what this will do to traffic flow. Can you imagine even five cars lining up at Starbucks?” Another offered: “I think this is a stupid idea...It’s already a very busy lot and I have to dodge cars and kids (so many kids!) on my way back and forth. There just isn’t enough room in the driveway in front of Starbucks to have additional cars parked, waiting for drinks.”

If the popularity of the coffee giant’s mobile order and pay system is any indication, there eventually could be dozens of cars lining up to take advantage of curbside pickup. According to the company’s chief digital officer, more than 10 percent of all orders at Starbucks’ busiest stores are made via mobile order and pay. In some cases, that number approaches 20 percent during peak hours. In short: A lot of people are keen on the idea of not waiting in line. It’s unclear, however, if Starbucks is prepared to accommodate them.

Recently, baristas have complained that Starbucks is understaffed, and in need of more workers to handle the multitude of orders. Some have even petitioned the company for more hours and more staff to accommodate all the orders coming from customers inside the store, the drive-thru, and the mobile app.

Snoqualmie Starbucks Tops Nation for Mobile App Orders, Location Chosen to Test New Curbside Service [Living Snoqualmie]
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