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Is Your Starbucks Mobile Order Slowing You Down?

A red Starbucks cup filled with a frothy beverage, topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg. The cup features the Starbucks logo in green and white.
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The hack of using Starbucks mobile order to bypass the morning coffee line is a good one.

Possibly too good.

It seems that Starbucks mobile order has become so popular that the coffee giant cannot keep up with the demand.

Eggnog Latte

This has resulted in several problems:

  • Inefficient crowd flow in stores as waiting guests crowd the barista counter
  • Stores not designed for orders to sit if not immediately picked up
  • Orders flowing in faster than they can be fulfilled
  • Staffing inefficiencies where cashiers who once took complex orders are now glorified sticker-pullers

But the most significant and noticeable has been lengthy wait times for drinks.  It seems the greatest selling point of using mobile order – not waiting – has not been realized.  More individuals have discovered the service.  At some locations, the mobile customers now walk in and bypass the front of the store completely.

The reality is, there has always been a wait time baked into Starbucks mobile order.  When selecting a location, a range of “prep times” for Starbucks mobile order will pop up for selected locations.  As an example, I pulled the prep times this morning for the locations I have saved in my phone.

Starbucks mobile order
A sample of Starbucks Mobile Order prep time ranges on Saturday March 25, 2017 in DFW.

As  you can see, the Starbucks closest to my home (Hulen & Donnelly in Fort Worth, TX) has a prep time range between 3 and 8 minutes.  I could order right now, throw on my shoes and leave the house.  My drink might be ready when I arrive.  Or I might wait a few minutes if I hit the red light at I-30.

The next Starbucks on the list has a 4 to 9 minute prep time.  That one is on my way out of Fort Worth. I usually stop there on my way to the airport or to Dallas.  I would normally order while stopped at a long red light about a mile from that location.  With a shady parking situation at that location, I know my drink will be ready every time when I arrive.

The last location I have saved – Galleria North – is near my office in Dallas.  The prep time of 9 to 15 minutes is normal for this location.  I often wait in my car and check email for several minutes before venturing inside.  I’d also say this is one of the typical locations experiencing the growing pains of Starbucks mobile order.  On any given Friday morning, there are 25 to 30 people crowding the narrow barista counter.  Many are picking up several drinks for office mates in nearby office towers.  The small counter is typically full of drinks and heated food items.  Picking up an item is an obstacle course of sharp elbows and “excuse me pleases” among the tightly packed bodies.

There has to be a better way.  Still, Starbucks mobile order is an improvement on the way things were two years ago.  As the Business Insider article suggests, more store redesigns will hopefully resolve the growing pains.

Will I stop using Starbucks mobile order?  Not a chance.  I’ll just leave the house (or hotel) a few minutes earlier to leave time for caffeine.

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