Use Starbucks's Order-Ahead App and Get Your Name Spelled Right

Photograph by Carl Court/AFP via Getty Images

In its push toward a more digital future, Starbucks announced last week that it has started testing an order-ahead app in 150 stores around Portland, Ore. Customer names will be printed onto a label, eliminating the chance that human baristas will spell things wrong. It really is a new Starbucks experience.

The popularity of online ordering in pizza delivery and other parts of the restaurant business, such as GrubHub, show that most of us would rather avoid talking to a live person. Digital ordering also reduces errors beyond misspelled names—think of all the times when the cashier doesn’t hear an order correctly—and frees up employees for other tasks.

There are changes to consumer behavior as well: At Domino’s, for examples, customers spend more when they ordered digitally. And, in perhaps the biggest boon, orders placed by app allow for easy collection of data on customers that can help with marketing and strategy.

But outside Portland, Starbucks customers will have to wait until closer to the end of the year to try placing an order using the app. So we asked spokeswoman Linda Mills to walk us through how it works:

• First, customers select the items and the location for pickup.
• The app will show the approximate wait time before the order is placed. No, you can’t set it to pickup in, say, an hour—the order is created as soon as it is received, so you better not be too far away.
• When the order is placed, payment is made from the customer’s registered Starbucks Card—no fumbling for change at the register.
• If a beverage isn’t hot or otherwise isn’t to the customer’s satisfaction during pickup, Starbucks says it will remake it.
• The next time the customer opens the app, the menu screen will display recent orders.

Mills describes the app as “the fastest and easiest way to order and pay at Starbucks,” although the company doesn’t offer estimates for how much time ordering by app can save.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.