Starbucks is opening a pick-up cafe in midtown Manhattan with Amazon that uses the retail giant’s cashierless technology to attract busy consumers who want to buy coffee or snack quickly.
The partnership with Amazon is the latest step in Starbucks’ plan to adapt its locations to consumers’ new habits. Nearly a year and a half ago, Starbucks announced it was accelerating plans to revamp its U.S. footprint, inspired by the pandemic’s abrupt shifts to how consumers wanted to buy and drink their coffee. In addition to shuttering as many as 400 stores in 18 months, the strategy included opening more pick-up locations in dense urban markets and installing walk-up windows and double drive-thru lanes in suburban areas.
The first Starbucks Pickup with Amazon Go location opens Thursday in New York City on 59th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues, with a flag outside waving both companies’ logos. The Seattle-based companies plan to open at least two more locations together over the next year. The second cafe will also be in midtown Manhattan, in the New York Times Building located at 40th Street and 8th Avenue.
“It’s a proof of concept that we’re both learning from,” said Kathryn Young, senior vice president of global growth and development for Starbucks.
Young declined to provide more detail on how long Starbucks and Amazon have been working together.
When customers enter the new store, they’ll first see a counter to pick up the drinks they preordered using the Starbucks mobile app. A digital screen hanging above the counter shows which orders are still being made by baristas.
To take advantage of the convenience of Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology, customers can use the palm of their hand, if they’re already registered with Amazon One. Otherwise they can use an in-store code from the Amazon app or insert their credit card. A kiosk near the entry allows customers to join Amazon One by inserting a credit card and scanning their hand.
Starbucks employees are nearby to help assist customers as they enter, although some consumers may already be familiar with the technology. Amazon already operates a handful of Go stores within Manhattan, including one just blocks away from the new cafe.
Shelves and refrigerated displays in the Amazon Go market section of the store feature a variety of food options, including Starbucks classics, premade salads and sandwiches from Amazon Kitchen and items from local favorites like Dominique Ansel, Ess-a-Bagel and Magnolia Bakery. The store also sells items commonly found in convenience store checkout lines, like protein bars and packs of gum.
Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology means that customers won’t have to check out with a cashier to pay. Instead, scales, cameras and shelf sensors tally up customers’ totals and charge them when they leave the store.
“You don’t have to wait to stop in line and pay,” said Dilip Kumar, vice president of physical retail and technology for Amazon.
Beyond the displays of food is seating, with large booths for meetings and solo dining booths for customers who may be working remotely or studying. They can order refills for their coffee through the Starbucks app or with a barista at the counter.
“We designed this experience to fit people’s needs as they go about their day,” said Kumar. “Sometimes you’re in a hurry, some days you have more time.”
The location will have longer hours than a typical Starbucks cafe, staying open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends.