Starbucks is shifting away from its famous cafe experience in a change only partly inspired by the coronavirus pandemic. The coffee company tells CNN that it was reevaluating its coffee-selling model before the pandemic, as about 80% of transactions at its 15,000 US stores are "on-the-go" purchases. As a result, Starbucks had planned to roll out a new strategy emphasizing mobile ordering and easy pickups between 2023 and 2025, reports Fast Company. But "COVID-19 has actually allowed us to accelerate the plans," a spokesperson tells CNN. As it now stands, the plan is to close 400 stores in the US and Canada over the next 18 months while introducing carryout-only locations—essentially a pickup window and lineup area—where the number of customers will be limited.
"Our vision is that each large city in the US will ultimately have a mix of traditional Starbucks cafes and Starbucks Pickup locations," the company tells CNN. Its latest SEC filing mentions a plan to open 300 pickup locations in North America this year, per the Canadian Press. About 60% of these will have a drive-thru, compared to a third of existing US locations, some of which will see drive-thrus added, reports Fast Company. Starbucks is also looking to expand parking areas to allow for curbside pickup, to be aided by a more efficient espresso machine. What does all this mean for Starbucks as a place of community? "We're learning that our customers really feel that experience isn't just sitting in the store," COO Roz Brewer tells Fast Company. It's in "the interaction between the barista [and customer]." (Read more Starbucks stories.)