It's like Uber, but for flat whites.
Starbucks announced today that it is rolling out two new pilot tests for delivery programs. The larger of the tests, which is scheduled to take place in Seattle later this year, will use Postmates, the popular on-demand delivery app, to bring drinks directly to customers' homes or offices for a flat delivery fee. The partnership will allow Starbucks customers to order drinks through the Starbucks mobile app, and have them delivered by a Postmates courier on a bike, on foot, or in a car depending on the distance being traveled.
The second test, nicknamed "Green Apron," will be confined to the Empire State Building in Manhattan. Customers in the building will be able to have their drinks brought directly to their desk by walking couriers from a kiosk downstairs in the lobby.
Like any good disruptor, Starbucks is trying these minimum viable pilot projects to determine if either one is worth rolling out nationwide. “The truth is we’re not sure exactly how it will play out,” Starbucks chief digital officer Adam Brotman told Re/code. “Is one the national approach and one for dense urban environments only? We are truly in learning mode right now but we’re excited about them both.”
Testing services like these in large cities like New York and Seattle makes sense, given that fast delivery works best in dense urban environments where cars aren't required to shuttle goods between locations. But Postmates, which offers delivery in more than 60 U.S. cities, will need to step up its game if it wants to get hot drinks to customers before they cool off. (Currently, many Postmates deliveries take upwards of half an hour.) Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann told Re/code that "speed is the number one thing” they're working on, and said that among the methods they're considering is a special, Thermos-like cup that would keep hot drinks hot for longer.
As appealing as a Starbucks delivery service sounds, the possibility of getting a lukewarm latte might be the only downside. Well, that, and your courier probably won't have time to discuss racial harmony with you before he zips off to his next delivery.