Starbucks to test mobile ordering this year

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Coffeehouse giant Starbucks will try out a system later this year that lets customers place orders via smartphone and pick up their drinks later.

The chain’s chief digital officer, Adam Brotman, told Fortune the pilot program will be tested in a single, unnamed market “later this year.”

Starbucks and fast-food chains, including Oak Brook-based McDonald’s, have longed for a do-it-all mobile app that lets customers place orders, pay for them and bypass lines to pick up their food and drinks.

If it’s done right, it could power the company to a whole next level, Brotman said. But if it’s not it could hurt the brand. When we feel that it’s great then we’re going to roll it out nationally.

Starbucks says 10 million customers already use the mobile app to pay for orders.

Starbucks and others face some challenges in handling mobile orders and those from people who walk up to the counter. Will people who place mobile orders be allowed to walk to the head of the line? Or will companies set up two counters: One for mobile orders and another for everything else?

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