Starbucks to roll out ‘pay ahead’ option in 2015

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Starbucks says it will start letting customers across the country place orders ahead of time on their smartphones by next year.

The Seattle-based chain said Thursday it will introduce the option in Portland later this year before the national rollout in 2015.

The company has been working on improving the speed of its service, which can be slowed down when customers order more complicated drinks or food items that have to be warmed up. The “pay ahead” option is intended to help win over customers who might otherwise be discouraged by the lines and waits at Starbucks, particularly during the morning rush.

Starbucks is also making a big push to convince more people to download its mobile payment app, which helps the company build customer loyalty. That’s in part because customers earn reward stars for each purchase, which can be cashed in for free drinks or food. Already, Starbucks says 15 percent of its purchases are made with mobile devices.

Other chains including McDonald’s and Taco Bell have been scrambling to roll out mobile payment apps; Dunkin’ Donuts rolled out its payment app in 2012 and has been pushing to get customers to download it.

To drive traffic to its cafes this holiday season, Starbucks also says 10 people who pay with its mobile app or a Starbucks card will be selected to win “Starbucks for Life,” which is a food or drink item every day for 30 years.

In a statement, CEO Howard Schultz noted that last year’s holiday season saw a “seismic shift” in consumer behavior, with many retailers seeing a decline in traffic as more people shopped online. But he said Starbucks’ plans would ensure the company cafes have a strong holiday season.

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