Here’s how it works: Customers who just want a Starbucks item to-go can order online and pick it up at a counter, or order from a barista just as they would at a regular location.
But customers who want to come in and spend time in the Amazon Go market, which has booth seating as well as individual desks, countertops and tables where you can have a quick bite, have to follow Amazon’s process.
That means using either a credit card, Amazon app or your palm to gain access to the seating area, which has heated, refrigerated and regular shelves full of food, snacks and beverages. There are also typical Starbucks snacks and meals, like sous vide egg bites, croissants and protein platters. And there are Amazon Go sandwiches and salads, plus local offerings, which include bagels from Ess-A-Bagel and treats from Dominique Ansel, among other options.
What the third place looks like in 2021
Starbucks has long pitched itself as a so-called third place where you can sip a cappuccino, read the paper, listen to a carefully curated playlist of smooth jazz and, increasingly in 2021, work remotely.
“There’s space to plug in, space to be, space to connect, space to have meetings,” said Kathryn Young, Starbucks senior vice president of global growth and development.
It’s also a way to “meet customers where [they] are at different places all throughout the day.”
During the pandemic, when corporate employees stopped going into offices, Starbucks customers began shifting their behaviors — picking up coffee later in the day, perhaps after having their first cup at home. Recently, mornings have picked up again, noted John Culver, chief operating officer and group president of North America at Starbucks, during an October analyst call.
It remains to be seen whether customers will feel comfortable with the Amazon Go concept, which may feel intrusive to those not comfortable with Amazon surveilling their purchases. Young is not worried that the format will turn people off, she said.
“Our customers are telling us that they’re excited about the convenience that Amazon brings,” she said. For those who are not so keen on Amazon Go, “we have options,” she noted. “If you just want to pop in, [and] pop out, you’re welcome to do that.”