Shortening the Customer Buying Experience at Starbucks

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The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in fundamental challenges for the whole world. Today, people should keep social distance, minimize their contact with other individuals, and take other preventive measures. There is no doubt that these requirements make both people and businesses reconsider their behavior to meet the new world’s conditions. Scientists admit that crowding is one of the most significant phenomena that contribute to the spread of the virus. It means that it is necessary to minimize the number of people who are forced to stay in one place for an extended period. It is often a case for cafés and restaurants, and Starbucks is among them because it is subject to long lines, which results in health threats for customers under modern circumstances.

Thus, the paper aims to investigate the issue of long lines and use a service blueprint process to offer a solution to minimize the required time to be inside a café.

Background of the Situation

According to the information above, long queues have always been a problem at Starbucks. Vasisht (2018) stipulates that long waiting lines were the norm at Starbucks even before the pandemic. The author specifies that it could take up to 14 minutes to receive an ordered cup of coffee or other beverage (Vasisht, 2018). While this phenomenon used to result in customer dissatisfaction, the modern state of affairs is associated with a more significant threat. Health researchers stipulate that the coronavirus spreads when people are in close contact, and long waiting lines are a suitable example of this situation.

Thus, the issue under consideration deserves specific attention for at least two reasons. Firstly, Starbucks is a popular establishment among numerous individuals, and it is rational to identify ways how to optimize the customer buying experience. Secondly, the recommended coronavirus preventive measures stipulate that it is necessary to shorten social contacts and keep distance between people. Consequently, it seems reasonable to develop a system that will result in shorter lines at Starbucks.

Statement of the Problem Gap

The proposed scenario demonstrates where the problem is and how it affects clients. It refers to the fact that individuals should wait for twelve minutes to make orders. It takes five minutes to prepare two lattes with the cream topping, while those customers who buy beverages other than lattes are required to wait for seven minutes for payment to exit.

This situation is valid for a single line of ten customers and four baristas who serve them. Vasisht (2018) supports this claim and states that the waiting time of seven, twelve, or even 14 minutes is typical at Starbucks. Under the current conditions, this case implies a significant problem because an individual is forced to stay in a closed space with many strangers, which exposes all of them to the risk of a coronavirus.

There is no doubt that the situation above should be improved. It is necessary to balance the customers’ experience, which means eliminating a significant difference between lattes and other beverages’ waiting time. Consequently, this project aims to develop a system that would cut the overall waiting time (from the entrance to exit) for each customer to ten minutes. That is why it is necessary to identify the possible interventions and analyze their effectiveness in achieving the stipulated objective. If customers wait for their orders for approximately ten minutes, it is possible to mention that the goal is achieved. Thus, the information below will try to address this issue by commenting on the current interventions.

Possible Solutions

It is possible to use many interventions that promise to result in decreased waiting time. The first of them relates to some self-service options that can shorten queues. It refers to the fact that customers can be allowed to work with coffee machines or take other cold beverages by themselves. In this case, clients will not need to wait for Starbucks’s employee to prepare their orders. The second possible solution refers to letting a limited number of customers in a store or café. As for the scenario under consideration, for example, it is possible to make sure that no more than five clients are inside Starbucks at once. This approach will result in the fact that customers will have to be in direct contact with people for a shorter time.

Pre-ordering is the third possible solution to reduce waiting time. Alwaleed et al. (2018) explain that modern technologies can address the problem and lead to positive results. This intervention implies the use of a mobile application that can allow customers to make orders while they are heading a café or store. This approach means that the clients’ orders will have been prepared once they come to take them. Online payment opportunities also refer to this solution since they contribute to customers spending less time in a line.

The fourth suitable intervention includes increasing the number of Starbucks employees to serve more clients at any given time and providing a sufficient amount of equipment. Gupta et al. (2018) stipulate that understaffing is a significant issue that can lead to longer waiting times. Furthermore, Chuang (2019) supports that a developed café infrastructure can result in shorter lines. Consequently, Starbucks is free to choose any of these interventions, but it does not mean that all of them imply the same effectiveness. That is why the following section will try to evaluate the proposed solutions and conclude which one is the most suitable for the given case.

Solutions Assessment

To begin with, one should mention that each of the proposed solutions implies a different effectiveness level and can lead to mixed results. Firstly, self-service can significantly shorten the waiting time, but it is not suitable for Starbucks. On the one hand, not every customer has sufficient skills and abilities to cope with coffee machines. That is why those clients who fail to have the necessary competency can create even longer queues.

On the other hand, the introduction of self-service opportunities will go against the company’s ideology and image. Secondly, the intervention to control the number of customers who are allowed to be in a café or store at the same time is not likely to solve the problem under consideration. It is so because this option will only reduce the time that the clients spend inside a Starbucks, but no waiting time. It is necessary to remember that clients are also waiting when they stay outside a café or store.

Thirdly, modern technologies seem to be effective in this case. It is so because waiting time significantly decreases if customers come and their coffee is being prepared. In addition to that, the situation becomes considerably better when clients do not need to count the necessary amount of money while Starbucks’s employees do not need to look for a change. These conditions are present when clients have an opportunity to make payments online. Finally, it seems logical to provide Starbucks cafés and stores with more baristas and equipment pieces to increase service capacity and reduce waiting time.

The information above demonstrates that some of the proposed interventions are better than others. It refers to the use of technology, hiring more baristas, and working with more latte machines and steamers. However, specific attention should be applied to these options because they do not always result in advantages. For example, La Monica (2017) argues that the results of online orders and payments are that “the line has now shifted from the cash register to the counter where drinks are actually served” (para. 1).

Consequently, one cannot say that technologies reliance is an error-free method to reduce waiting time. The best solution is to implement new technologies and meet the staffing and equipment needs to make it possible for Starbucks’s employees to serve more customers over a limited period. Thus, the proposed intervention is to hire one more barista and add one steamer to make coffee preparation faster.

At this point, it is reasonable to draw attention to a service blueprint process. It is so because this tool is useful in demonstrating what customers experience when they come to Starbucks stores or cafés. A service blueprint process is a map that reveals how customers interact with employees and what actions take place for a client to achieve their latte or other beverages. The following service blueprint process will show how the desired waiting time can be achieved.

Solutions Assessment

The service blueprint process above demonstrates that the proposed interventions aim at reducing the number and duration of direct contacts between customers and Starbucks’s employees. It happens because a mobile application allows customers to make orders and payments when they are outside a Starbucks café. Thus, employees start preparing a coffee when the customer is on the road.

This situation results in the fact that customers only grab their coffee and leave. Consequently, the waiting time inside Starbucks is shorter because there are no waiting lines, which is reflected by the service blueprint process above. In addition to that, time inside a café is reduced because the customers have already paid for their orders via the application.

Planning and Implementation

It is reasonable to draw specific attention to how the proposed intervention can be planned and implemented. On the one hand, a planning phase will consist of a few essential steps. Firstly, it will be necessary to identify whether it is possible to achieve the desired goal. For that purpose, it seems rational to conduct research and find suitable examples that would prove the proposed intervention’s effectiveness.

Secondly, it will be required to analyze whether clients will likely use a mobile application to make online orders and payments. Thirdly, an appropriate step will be to determine whether and how additional employees and equipment pieces can increase productivity and decrease coffee preparation time. Finally, it is rational to analyze the cost-effectiveness of the proposed intervention. Once identified, this information will show what specific steps should be taken to achieve the desired goal of minimizing the waiting times.

On the other hand, it is also reasonable to consider how to implement these steps. Firstly, it will be necessary to design an appropriate application that will make it possible to make orders and payments online. Specific attention should be drawn to ensure that the application works without errors that could lead to customers’ dissatisfaction. Secondly, it will be required to hire additional employees and provide cafés and stores with the necessary amount of equipment. These actions will be sufficient to reduce the waiting times to achieve the desired goal of ten minutes. Even though it sounds simple, these steps will take significant time and effort to achieve the stipulated objective.

Monitoring and Corrective Actions

The information above has explained what steps and decisions are necessary to plan and implement the proposed intervention. However, one should add that it is challenging to achieve the goal once the intervention is implemented. It is a typical case that the initial results are not so good as was expected. This claim means that it is reasonable to follow up on the situation to check whether the waiting time decreases. A suitable approach is to check the intervention’s effectiveness in a week and a month because these intervals will show whether the steps result in some benefits. In this case, it is rational to appoint a specific employee or board, and their responsibility will be to check how the waiting times change following the intervention.

The monitoring process can result in the necessity to take some corrective actions. On the one hand, the fast achievement of the desired goal can make Starbucks remove either a barista or a steamer. It is necessary to try this corrective action to check whether it is possible to achieve the desired objective with the help of fewer resources. On the other hand, the failure to reduce the waiting times to ten minutes can make Starbucks add equipment and staff members.

Concluding Thoughts

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant challenges for many life spheres, and modern people are forced to learn how to manage these new living conditions. Coronavirus preventive measures cause the most significant issues, and it is necessary to follow them to protect from the virus. Thus, various businesses should redesign their processes to ensure that they do not expose their clients to potential threats. Starbucks is also among these organizations, and this firm should implement specific interventions to reduce the waiting time of its customers and limit their exposure to the potential COVID-19 infection.

The given paper has determined that numerous options can help Starbucks achieve this goal. They include self-service opportunities, limiting the number of customers inside a café or store, meeting staffing and equipment needs, and online service. These solutions imply different effectiveness levels, and it has been concluded that online service and providing additional employees and equipment pieces are the most suitable variant. When used together, these interventions have the potential to reduce the overall waiting time to ten minutes.


Alwaleed, N., Huwail, N. H. A., Singh, S., & AlMejhem, A. (2019). A case study on Starbucks. Journal of the Community Development in Asia, 2(2), 1-8.

Chuang, H.-J. (2019). Starbucks in the world. HOLISTICA – Journal of Business and Public Administration, 10(3), 99-110.

Gupta, P., Nagpal, A., & Maik, D. (2018). Starbucks: Global brand in emerging markets. Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies, 8(4), 1-22.

La Monica, P. R. (2017). Starbucks still has a problem with long lines. CNN Business. Web.

Vasisht, P. (2018). The 9-minute takeaway coffee. Medium. Web.

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