As Starbucks pushes more food and wine, chain looks to shrink wait times with mobile ordering

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Starbucks plans to let customers across the U.S. order ahead of time on their smartphones over the next year, a move that should help keep lines in check as it pushes more snacks, sandwiches and even wine.

In select areas, the chain also plans to offer delivery by late 2015.

“Delivery is one of our most requested ideas,” Adam Brotman, chief digital officer at Starbucks, said at the company’s investor day in Seattle.

The new ordering options and a dramatic increase in U.S. food sales were part of the plans Starbucks executives laid out to drive up sales over the next five years. To convince more people to get something to eat with their drinks, Starbucks has already been introducing new baked goods, sandwiches that are warmed in ovens and salad boxes.

The push has been paying off. In its most recent quarter, the company said breakfast sandwich sales rose by 30 per cent. Still, it said its share of the fast-food lunch market remains at around 2 per cent.

Starbucks says its food push will be helped by making beer and wine available in up to 25 per cent of its 12,000 U.S. stores over the next five years. That “evenings” program, which includes small plates such as chicken skewers after 4 p.m., is already in select stores around the country.

The Seattle-based company has been expanding into a variety of areas beyond coffee as it seeks to keep up its sales momentum. In its last fiscal year, sales in its flagship Americas region rose by 6 per cent in established locations. The figure had grown 7 per cent in the previous year, and 8 per cent in the year before that.

As Starbucks continues its expansion beyond coffee, Brotman said mobile ordering will play an important role in cutting down lines in stores.

“Customers using mobile ordering are going to be given back the gift of time,” he said.

He also noted the mobile app lets the company suggest other items people might want to buy, which drives up sales as well.

The first region to get mobile ordering was Portland, Oregon, where the service was launched on Wednesday. Spokeswoman Alisha Damodaran said people were able to select from 150 stores where they could pick up their orders.

Starbucks Corp. plans to gradually expand the offering nationally over the next year.