Starbucks is Leveraging Digital to Reopen 90% of its Stores

with millions of mobile customers, Starbucks will lean on technology to keep customer/employee interactions to a minimum.

Need to Know 

  • Starbucks is planning to reopen 90% of its stores starting May 4th.
  • The coffee giant will lean on its mobile app for easy, contactless pickups.
  • The Starbucks app allows customers to order, pay, pickup, and earn rewards all in one convenient location.
  • Thanks to the widespread adoption of digital rewards and mobile order-ahead, Starbucks is hoping its reopening plan will be smooth and eliminate risks for both employees and customers.


Starbucks has unveiled its plans to re-open 90% of its stores across the US and Canada, and it’s leaning on tech to make it happen. 

The coffee giant, which has been operating with about half of its stores closed throughout the coronavirus pandemic, plans to begin reopening more locations in early May. 

The chain’s strategy will emphasize mobile ordering and payment by using the Starbucks app, and will allow for curbside pickup, where possible, or a sectioned-off pickup location inside the store. 

Customers will also be able to place an order inside the coffee shop, but there will be a limited number of people allowed inside, floor markers to encourage social distancing, and no seating permitted. In some locations, customers can order Starbucks for delivery through UberEats. 

“We are now leveraging digital tools that enable us to monitor the COVID-19 situation in every community across the U.S. and leverage a variety of service options from contactless service, entryway pickup, curbside delivery where parking is available and at-home delivery, that allow us to thoughtfully reopen stores and scale up operations,” said Starbucks president and CEO Kevin Johnson. 

The mobile-first effort is sure to be successful, given Starbucks’ loyal fanbase of millions of dedicated coffee drinkers. 

Starbucks’ Rewards program alone boasts almost 19 million users. The ordering and rewards app allows dedicated fans to place an order conveniently with their mobile phones while earning 2 “stars” for every dollar spent, which they can then redeem for free coffees, food, and merchandise. 

Starbucks already has some experience with pickup-only: last year, the chain launched its first-ever pickup-only store in New York City, which uses Mobile Order & Pay as the primary ordering and payment method. 

The Starbucks app is free to download and allows you to order ahead, pay and pickup, and collect rewards all with one easy tool. 

Never ones to shy away from innovation, the chain is even using artificial intelligence to, ironically, help create more meaningful human connections. 

Starbucks recently launched Deep Brew, “an artificial intelligence-powered program that assists Starbucks partners with inventory management and scheduling, freeing up time for customer interaction.”

The interest in tech to support people first will surely pay off amid the current global crisis. 

“We have to boldly reinvent the future,” said Johnson. “If mobile internet has created these new scenarios, we embrace that, but we don’t do it at the expense of human connection.”