After blaming a sales slowdown on the “congestion” fostered by too much app business, Starbucks walked back its seemingly contradictory comments eight days ago.
“If I could read rewind the clock on the earnings call, I think I would change things a bit,” Starbucks CFO Scott Maw said at the March 9 UBS Global Consumer & Retail Conference, as recorded by SeekingAlpha.com. He “explained” that management might have been imprecise when it said December sales were hurt by walk-in customers doing an about-face because units were too packed with fellow patrons who were picking up coffees they’d already ordered via Starbucks’ app.
The affected stores were “not capacity-constrained,” and comp sales weren’t hurt, Maw said. “It's just in that flow and in that month, we saw some pressure.”
After the clarification, Maw revealed that some new stores are addressing the non-problem through “split production.”
“So you walk in, you go to the left-hand side, there's a Mobile Order & Pay sort of unit, and that's where your order is,” he said, “You go to the right-hand side and there's a POS.”
The chain is also experimenting with a cubbyhole retrieval area like the one Panera Bread provides for pre-ordered takeout meals, according to news reports.
Both approaches are a move away from the “third place” approach that Starbucks has long cited as a key to its success. Part of its founding rationale was to provide consumers with a third place in their lives, an alternative to their homes or workplaces.