Starbucks aims to halve serving time as it launches first UK ‘express’ store

Starbucks says the new format is in response to a growing consumer need for speed and a quick “in and out”.

Starbucks has opened its first ‘express store’ in London’s Canary Wharf as it looks to halve the time it takes to serve customers and provide them with a quick “in-and-out” service. 

Instead of ordering and paying at the till and picking up the order at the handoff, the new store breaks the consumer experience down into three stages: order, pay and collect.

When a customer enters a store, they will be prompted to order. A label will immediately be printed off behind the counter and a barista will start making their drink. As the customer then moves towards the till point to pay, their beverage will be ready for pick-up. For customers who choose to order ahead, mobile order & pay is also integrated.

“We are working several orders ahead than we would be in a standard Starbucks. We know our approximate service time and our aspiration is to halve that,” Peter Davies, retail operations director at Starbucks told Marketing Week.

“The Canary Wharf location has a very busy morning peak. We noticed that we couldn’t cope with the demand using the standard [store] model. So we wanted to elevate the customer experience by bringing together the latest tech and design – but it’s only relevant for certain store types and customer segments.”

The London launch follows store openings in New York, Toronto and Chicago.


Even though Starbucks is looking to speed up the time in which it serves customers, Davies believes this won’t be to the detriment of the overall brand experience.

He explained: “Connection and experience mean different things for different customers. At certain times of the day or in particular stores, customers do want the connection and brand experience. But our customers tell us this isn’t always the case– a good experience for them is a quick in-and-out.”

Whether Starbucks will roll out more concept stores across Europe will be dependent on the Canary Wharf store’s success. The brand will be looking at staff and customer feedback, as well as sales, to determine this.

Davies concluded: “This is very much a trial store for Europe. Based on its success, we’ll look at other locations where customers have the same needs.”

Putting a heavier focus on tech

Starbucks has been putting a heavy focus on new technology over the last few years to drive innovation. It introduced a digital loyalty programme and mobile ordering in a bid to improve the customer experience and extend relationships.

Presenting on an investor call yesterday (22 July), the brand’s global chief strategy officer Matthew Ryan said Starbucks is steadily moving towards personalised digital marketing, with more customer-focused enhancements to its mobile app in the pipeline.

“Very late in the quarter, we turned on what we call ‘one-to-one marketing’. It’s actually close to one-to-30, but we are getting down to the level of personalised rewards based upon what people actually will do and knowledge we have of that individual customer’s behaviour.”

Speaking on the same call, CEO Howard Schultz said Starbucks is moving towards becoming a more “premium” brand, which is why it is investing heavily in new store concepts. While other brands are focusing on discounting and promotion, Starbucks is avoiding this to preserve “the integrity of the brand”.

“The premiumisation of Starbucks is linked to the ‘roasteries’ and linked to this new format of stores that we are working on that you’ll begin to see in calendar 2017, which is ‘Starbucks Reserve’ that is like a smaller format of the Roastery,” he explained.

“All of that will shine a halo on the brand and on the experience, and we don’t want to do anything that would dilute that halo by buying business or discounting, and we’re not going to get in that game, despite the fact that so many other people are throwing that at us.”



Interested in digital innovation? Find out more at the Festival of Marketing, which is running on the 5 and 6 October at Tobacco Dock, London. For more information about the event, including how to book tickets, click here.