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Expect This Major Change from Starbucks After Coronavirus

Will your go-to Starbucks shut down?

Despite being in the midst of a pandemic—where work-from-home life is the new normal—people aren't skipping their morning coffee trips. And for that, Starbucks has been here through it all to cover your caffeine fix. While java lovers across the country were elated to hear that Starbucks wouldn't need to shut down entirely due to coronavirus closures, the Seattle-based coffee chain won't be emerging from COVID-19 scot-free.

In fact, there is one change you can expect to see at Starbucks post-COVID, and it's one that may not be as surprising to hear as you'd think.

In a letter to customers, Starbucks CEO and President, Kevin Johnson, announced that the coffee chain would be shifting toward opening more drive-thru locations and shuttering certain cafes.

"Our digital leadership and ability to transform lower-performing locations and formats to successful new store formats (i.e., relocate Starbucks stores from low-traffic malls to new, thriving Starbucks locations […]) are unique strengths that we will lean into in the coming months," Johnson wrote. He also added that these plans to shift to a more drive-thru-based model were in place prior to the coronavirus pandemic but that the company would shorten the three- to five-year plan to take place over the next 12 to 18 months.

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For many Starbucks devotees, this shift in strategy doesn't sound all that lifechanging—most customers haven't been ordering directly from baristas for a while. Approximately 80 percent of Starbucks orders pre-COVID were "to-go" orders, according to Johnson. Whether it's been by drive-thru or mobile app, Starbucks customers typically order outside of stores because of their need for convenience on-the-go. So when all company-operated Starbucks locations closed access to cafes and moved to only drive-thru service in mid-March, life didn't change at all.

Combined with social distancing guidelines, it makes sense that customers' need for speed and easy ordering is reason enough to shut down foot-traffic-based stores and open Starbucks locations that emphasize pickup and drive-thrus. So, what will that look like?

Post-COVID, you can expect to see more Starbucks locations like the Starbucks Pickup location in Penn Plaza. At this location, there's no need for cashiers or waiting in line. Customers simply order and pay through the Starbucks mobile app. Once you get to the pickup location, you're able to track the progress of your order on a digital status board and then pick up your drink and food directly from a barista.

This may be the dawn of no more misspelled names on coffee cups—but we don't mind sacrificing a few laughs for safe, expedited service. Starbucks isn't the only restaurant shifting strategy in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Find out how other food chains will function moving forward with these 10 Shocking Changes to Restaurants Owners Are Secretly Considering.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Olivia Tarantino
Olivia Tarantino is the Managing Editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in nutrition, health, and food product coverage. Read more