Starbucks Expands Its Mobile “Order Ahead” Feature To Seattle And The Pacific Northwest

TECHCRUNCH: Starbucks’ mobile ordering system, which allows customers to place orders in advance of their visit to the store, pay from their phone, then skip the line when they arrive, is today rolling out to more locations across the Pacific Northwest, including Starbucks’ home base of Seattle. In total, there are now 650 more locations supported in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska, says the company, ahead of the national rollout planned for this year.

The “Mobile Order & Pay” system, for those unfamiliar, first debuted in Portland in December 2014, which served as the initial test market for this “order ahead” functionality. There, the feature has been available in 150 of the company’s stores.

Currently, the option is supported within the Starbucks app for iPhone, but when the system goes national later this year, Starbucks says the feature will be added to its Android application as well.

To use the feature within the application, customers click the “Order” option at the top-right of their screen, then select their food and beverage orders, customizing their drink as they choose. Using GPS functionality, the app will display the nearby stores where the order can be picked up, including the approximate wait times at each. Directions are also provided, if needed.

The customer then taps “order” to confirm, and the payment is made using the customer’s registered Starbucks Card.

The orders are sent immediately to the store where the staff begins to prepare the items for the customer ahead of their arrival. When the customer arrives at the location, they don’t have to wait in line – they can just pick up their order and leave.

The company isn’t sharing information on customer adoption of the order ahead feature at this point, given how early it is – the system has only been live for a few months, and only in a specific geographic region. However, it’s notable the speed with which Starbucks is managing to expand Mobile Order & Pay to new locations – something that’s indicative of the company’s ability to leverage the mobile payments infrastructure it already has in place.

It’s also worth noting how far Starbucks has come since it invested in the mobile payments competitor Square, whose messy and confusing rollout to Starbucks’ stores a couple of years ago, had put Starbucks on the hot seat, forced to respond to wide-ranging criticism about its failure to deliver on a seamless mobile payments experience using the Square technology. In the time since, Square has shelved its consumer-facing mobile wallet plans, and Starbucks has instead continued to invest in its own in-house mobile payment systems.