Starbucks Gets Its #FirstWorldProblem: Mobile Orders Causing Their Own Line Ups


Starbucks solved a problem with line ups at stores by launching Mobile Order and Pay via their iOS and Android apps. But now, it appears this feature–which launched nationwide last year in Canada–has resulted in yet another problem: mobile order line ups.

The coffee chain’s CEO, Howard Schultz, said on a conference call yesterday “We are now laser-focused on fixing this problem, but the nature of it – too much demand – is an operational challenge we have solved before and I can assure you we will solve again,” according to Reuters.

In the U.S., Starbucks said 1,200 of its stores saw a 20 percent jump in mobile pay and ordering during peak hours; last year, mobile order and pay surges affected only half the number of stores.

Kevin Johnson, Starbucks’ president and upcoming CEO, said the spike in mobile orders caused incoming customers to leave stores, once they saw huge numbers of people crowded around pick up counters, affecting sales (via CNBC).

Spokeswoman Linda Mills told the publication earlier this week, the company began to add 1-2 more baristas dedicated to mobile orders at its busiest locations during peak times.

Starbucks said they are also reevaluating work routines, plus internally testing notifications to let customers know when their drinks are ready. The company is also has plans for Reserve stores and bars, while also redesigning and modelling older stores to relieve mobile order pressure.

As the word continues to get out Starbucks has Mobile Order and Pay, we’ve similarly experienced longer line ups at pick up counters, as we’re seeing more mobile orders all the time.

Sometimes, we end up going to Starbucks to avoid lines at Tim Hortons, which, along with Burger King, will be launching their own mobile app this year, to join with McDonald’s as well.

Do you have any mobile order war stories to share? They’re definitely a case of #firstworldproblems.


  • Snow

    I may be educated in Australia and not Canada … but last time I checked Quebec was a (significant) part of the nation of Canada…

    “…which launched nationwide last year in Canada…”

    No I get that the linked text specifically says “except Quebec” but should American companies not be held responsible for highlighting their lack of will to offer in French?

  • Gerry Lee

    Maybe instead of having a one designated area for pick up, create a separate line/area for just mobile orders only.

  • FragilityG4

    I am not a slave to coffee and I’m quite happy.

  • mxmgodin

    I should be #thankful my local Starbucks is rather small, and not too busy at the time I go in the morning. I’ve rarely seen more than one or two mobile order at a time there.

  • mxmgodin

    I’m just going to make some assumptions, here, but I guess the problem is also that the menu is altogether slightly different in Québec than it is in other provinces.

    For example, in English Canada, the three main coffee sizes at Starbucks are Tall/Grande/Venti. In Québec, due in part to French-language laws, and confusion that could arise from these names (in French, “grand(e)” is the literal translation of the adjective “tall”, so having two different sizes whose names both mean “tall” would be weird and confusing to customers). So, to avoid that problem, in Québec, the three sizes are called Mezzo/Grande/Venti instead.

    So the issue here is not just that they need to translate the mobile order menu in French for Québec, but they would also need an alternative English menu for the province only too. So in total, it would necessitate 3 version of the menu: English Canada (except Québec), English Québec, and French Québec.

    I guess it’s an issue that’s a bit more difficult to resolve than simply translating the menu. In any way, the linked article said Starbucks is supposed to launch the service in Québec this year. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

  • D


  • Agreed, two lines at pick up would help. Too many times my drink is just sitting there, but the barista is super busy and I need to holler at them to get their attention about my mobile order. A mobile line would make it easier on baristas to easily scan who’s waiting on mobile.

  • Nice. Gotta love going in and your drink is just sitting there ready for pick up!

  • mcfilmmakers

    The feature did not launch nation wide. Quebec and new brunswick still cant use it.

  • Michael K

    They are able to print menus for their Québec stores they should be able to localize their app and launch it at the same time in all Canadian markets. I’m not impressed.

  • Cyrus Wu

    I’m not impressed either. Especially, the fact that French Canadian phone users can’t even order in Ontario if their phone’s language is French.