Every day on my commute to work, I walk from Rowe’s Wharf where my ferry arrives up to the Downtown Crossing Orange Line T-stop. On the way, I stop at the Starbucks at 125 Summer St. This is every morning, without fail. I go to Starbucks regularly. 

The experience has been getting worse of late, with longer lines and slower service. Yes, the management team has changed over in the past year, with newer people working the registers and making the drinks. Certainly this has contributed to the delays. But I think the problem can be found elsewhere.

I go to Starbucks a lot. Whenever I’m in one, I pay attention to process – how the team behind the counter works to handle the rush of customers. Do they capitalize on all of the possible efficiencies (can this drink be gotten by the person taking the order? Passed along to the barista?). The Starbucks on my commute appears to be getting less efficient. Things are out of whack. But the process hasn’t changed that much. However, what they’re trying to accommodate is a growing influx of mobile orders.

I’ve used mobile ordering several times. It does offer improvements to the experience. Your drink is waiting for you when you get there; no line, no hassle (assuming you’ve timed it right). But since the staff handling the mobile orders is the same that handles in-store orders, an impact is felt. And it’s a negative one. 

Admittedly, this is only a problem at peak-traffic times. But it does hurt my morning routine. I wait longer in the store for my drink (and my drink is always a simple one – regular drip in the winter; iced in the summer).

No doubt Starbucks has looked extensively at the impact of mobile ordering on the in-store experience. And they may still be fine-tuning the experience of how drinks are handled. I think it’s interesting that they’ve introduced a new shopping process that disrupts the old established process.

I think tomorrow I’ll start using mobile-ordering on my mobile commute.

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