SPX3,693.23-64.76 -1.72%
DIA295.86-4.66 -1.55%
IXIC10,867.93-198.88 -1.80%

Starbucks exploring tech to ease high U.S. demand, worker stress

Starbucks exploring tech to ease high U.S. demand, worker stress

Reuters · 09/13/2022 12:39
Starbucks exploring tech to ease high U.S. demand, worker stress

By Hilary Russ

- Starbucks is exploring developing technology to prevent U.S. cafes from becoming overwhelmed by too many orders as it seeks to revitalize its business and improve working conditions for employees, the company said on Tuesday.

A surge in digital orders, which make up a quarter of all orders, has helped the coffee chain gain market share during the COVID-19 pandemic but has also led to barista burnout and strained the physical capacity at older stores.

The company is exploring "load balancing" technology that can send orders to stores that have capacity to actually fulfill them – instead of to stores already being slammed by drive-thru customers, for instance, Chief Technology Officer Deb Hall Lefevre said in an interview with Reuters ahead of Investor Day on Tuesday.

Such technology helps "distribute the demand more evenly across multiple stores especially during peak hours," she said, adding the company is focused on automating tasks and streamlining jobs so employees can prioritize customer service.

The pandemic changed customer behavior, leading to a deluge of mobile, delivery and drive-thru orders, as well as an increase in cold beverages and customized coffee drinks.

Stressed out baristas have been unionizing, with employees at 236 stores voting to join a union over the past year, out of Starbucks' 9,000 corporate-owned U.S. locations. Conversely, 52 stores voted against unionizing, according to data from the National Labor Relations Board.


(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Josie Kao)

((Hilary.Russ@thomsonreuters.com; +1 (646) 223-7381; Reuters Messaging: hilary.russ.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.))