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The Latest Changes at America's Largest Coffee Chain Seem to Be Designed to Turn Customers Away

The company seems to be done playing host in its locations.

Sounds counterintuitive, but the largest coffee chain in the United States—the one with a long-standing reputation for being America's "third place" between home and work—has decided to transform itself into a less welcoming environment. Sure, you can still grab a cup of iced joe, a pink refresher, or a gigantic customized coffee-flavored slushy-type drink. But if there are no public bathrooms, no power outlets, and no tables or chairs—is it even a coffee shop?

Starbucks Is Abruptly Closing 16 Locations—Here's Why

Yes, we're talking about Starbucks, the company that has taken dents to its public image like a pro. The chain has recently been accused of attempting to squash unionizing efforts among its employees, and has been criticized for shamelessly raising its prices this year. Still, the loyalty of its customers seems unmatched.

But the latest changes may just push those loyal patrons over the edge. According to Eater, insider rumors are swirling about the chain planning to get rid of its power outlets, which were a major invitation for customers to make themselves at home at Starbucks locations.

The chain is also planning to pilot a new takeout-only store in Philadelphia called Starbucks Pickup, which will make it even harder to enjoy coffee sipping on premise as it will offer no seating or bathrooms. The new store design seems to be the chain's possible solution to the issues of drug use, theft, and assault that are plaguing many of its locations.

And takeout isn't the only way Starbucks is switching gears from playing host. The chain also announced plans for purpose-built store concepts enabled by Mobile Order & Pay and Starbucks Delivers. The company is growing its delivery program in the United States, and partnering with DoorDash, with plans to expand nationally alongside UberEats next year.

But do Starbucks customers want their drinks delivered via drive-thrus and delivery services—or would they prefer to sip casually in-store?

Like other fast-food chains, Starbucks seems determined to increase its mobile and drive-thru options rather than their in-store comforts. That's a latte faith that customers are willing to pay $5-plus to have some coffee in their cars.

Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff is a freelance writer based in Chicago. Read more about Danielle