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Inside the new Starbucks/Amazon Go hybrid in NYC

The store offers a high-tech, contactless experience in what Starbucks bills as a comfortable “third place” environment. But does it deliver on both?
Starbucks/Amazon Go store
Photo courtesy of Starbucks

Starbucks and Amazon Go opened the brands’ first hybrid store last week in New York City, integrating the order-ahead feature of the Starbucks app with Amazon's “just walk out” technology.

Customers can order their coffee drinks for pickup and take them to go or step inside the cafe space to sit at one of the work stations, booths or tables. To do so, they need to scan the Amazon Go app or a credit card to pass through the turnstile. A high-tech palm reader also grants access for registered users. A worker is stationed at the turnstile to explain how to enter. 

Amazon Go  turnstile

Palm reader

Photos by Patricia Cobe

A small prep area/kitchen behind the counter holds the coffee makers, microwaves and other equipment; the baristas at the pick-up counter simply hand over the orders.

Once inside, guests can grab something to eat from the Amazon Go cases, which are filled with an assortment of hot and cold meals and snacks, including salads, sandwiches and baked goods. Some of the foods have a local pedigree, coming from popular NYC spots such as Magnolia Bakery and Ess-A-Bagel.

Amazon Go case

Ess-A-Bagel

Photos by Patricia Cobe

Customers can also order more items from the Starbucks menu, and when the items are ready (as indicated on a large digital screen), they can pick up the order from the inside counter.

Starbucks ordering sign

In a press release, Starbucks bills this new model as a “modernized third place environment” with a welcoming lounge. But the small footprint really limits the number of guests who can hang out in the lounge.

Work station

Booth seating

There are three individual work stations with power outlets and three booths circling small tables. But the booths can only seat four adults comfortably. And while there are outlets at the base of each booth, there isn’t enough table surface to accommodate more than two laptops.

Near the pickup counter is a round communal table with six wooden chairs but no power source. Everyone else who wants to linger in the lounge has to stand at a counter or at the one high-top table.

communal table

The store is light and airy with contemporary finishes and wall decor, but many of Starbucks’ traditional cafes offer much more space for working and meetups.

counter

Photos by Patricia Cobe

The new hybrid store is located on the east side of Manhattan at 59th Street off Lexington Ave. Starbucks and Amazon Go expect to open more of these models in 2022, with the next location planned in the office building that’s home to the New York Times near Times Square.

“Our goal with this new store concept is to give our customers the ability to choose which experience is right for them as they go through their day, whether it is utilizing the Starbucks and Amazon apps to purchase food and beverages on the go, or deciding to stay in the lounge for the traditional third place experience Starbucks is known for,” Katie Young, senior vice president of global growth and development at Starbucks, said in a statement.

While the brands have nailed the convenience aspect, future locations need to offer more seating space for customers to enjoy that third place experience.

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