Why Starbucks Express works for millennials

starbucks express millennials

While most of the stereotypes associated with millennials just anger those in the demographic, the need for speed is one that rings true. That’s why the Starbucks Express unit that opened in late April in New York City works for millennials. It’s that simple—it’s fast. To see if the store met the chain’s promise for a quick-stop coffee shop, we sent in our own millennial secret shopper. We’ll call him Josh, so the place won’t recognize him from the name on his credit card during subsequent visits.

“The goal seems to be to get your order and get you out the door as quick as possible,” said Josh of his visit. “It’s probably the fastest I’ve ever received my iced coffee at Starbucks.”

The design of the store, in fact, is set up to get customers out. “There isn’t much room inside to wait around,” he said. And there doesn’t have to be, with orders coming from behind the barista counter faster than ever.

Part of that speed is the implementation of tech—another way to pique millennials’ interest. Instead of waiting until he got up to the counter, as per usual Starbucks experience, a greeter took Josh’s order on a remote tablet right when he came in. The order was sent electronically to the cashier as well as the baristas. So when Josh hit the register, the cashier already knew his order; he just had to pay. “The cashiers are fast at taking payments,” he said. “They seem to want to keep people moving.”

One difference that stood out to Josh: Normally the cashier writes the guest’s name on a cup when the order is placed and hands it to the barista. Here, there’s no handwritten, misspelled name on the cup. “It appears they printed a sticker when they took my order and used that to speed the process,” said Josh.

This warp-speed coffee shop isn’t without flaws, though. Josh got slowed down at the station holding straws, napkins and creamers. While Starbucks workers may have upped their speed, they can’t control customers’ pace, resulting in a bottleneck at the station. “It basically took me as long to get to the stand as it did to get my drink,” he said.

Josh’s consensus was a positive one, and that relates directly to speed: “Overall, good experience, as I do not like waiting around,” he said. It took about two minutes from when he walked in the door to get his drink. He did note, though, that this prototype seems to be geared toward regular Starbucks customers in a hurry who know what they want before setting foot in the door. People who need time to decide, he said, would be better off going to a “normal” Starbucks.


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