Starbucks order-ahead pilot this year for quicker caffeination

Starbucks is aiming to allow coffee drinkers to order ahead of time, with the cafe chain planning to kick off a pilot scheme later in the year. The trial was announced by Adam Brotman, chief digital officer at Starbucks, today, and would presumably build upon the company's existing mobile apps.

Exact details of either the trial or how the service itself would operate are in short supply at this stage; however, it's not hard to imagine what Starbucks might put into place.

The current app allows regular Starbucks customers to pay with their phone, as well as keeping track of how many points they're accruing on the rewards scheme. It also supports finding a nearby store, with filters for what facilities they have.

Integrating order-ahead functionality would presumably mean a list of menu options for each of those stores, which could then be selected and paid for ahead of time from the registered account.

Where Starbucks could particularly innovate is in how the coffee making process is timed. At its most basic, users could choose a time when they would be arriving to pick up their drink; however, if they proved to be late, that might then leave their drink cooling at the end of the counter.

One possibility could be to use proximity instead, either with something like Apple's iBeacon which would flag up when the user actually approached the store and could push their order to the top of the queue, or even when their phone automatically logs onto the Starbucks WiFi connection. Various different geofencing technologies exist, though Starbucks app users would have to be willing to allow location sharing with the firm.

The convenience – not to mention the ease of presumably being able to pre-set complex custom orders so that you don't have to explain your Venti, non-fat, no-foam, six pump, extra hot chai tea latte every time you reach the counter – might be enough to assuage any privacy fears, of course. We're waiting to hear back from Starbucks on more on how the system might work.

VIA Linda Mills