Starbucks: Mobile order-and-pay now available nationally

NEW YORK - Starbucks says its mobile app that lets people order and pay in advance will be available nationally starting Tuesday. That means lattes, breakfast sandwiches and other items you want could theoretically be waiting for you by the time you arrive.

Mobile order-and-pay is still rare, but could become more common as fast-food chains look to keep up with changing expectations. Taco Bell also introduced a mobile app last year that lets people order and pay in advance, and Wendy's says it's testing the option. If it works well, companies see such services and mobile apps in general as a way to build customer loyalty.

Starbucks Corp. introduced order-and-pay ahead in Portland, Oregon late last year and has since expanded it to 3,400 of its more than 7,400 company-owned U.S. stores. On Tuesday, it will roll out the option to the remainder of locations, including those in New York City, Chicago and San Francisco.

Starbuck Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman explains the basics:

Q: Walk me through how the app works.

A: You open your app and in the upper right hand corner, you're going to be able to click on a new tab that says "Order." When you click "Order," you'll be able to browse and send that order to whichever store you select. The app will tell you the estimated pickup time.

Then you walk right in and pick up your order.

Q: Can you specify when you want to pick up your order?

A: (The app) will tell you the estimated pickup time. If it's too quick, you could place (the order) once you get closer to the store.

You can pick whatever store you want, and you can check the wait times at various stores.

Q: In general, how much time in advance should people place their orders?

A: Generally, it is around three to five minutes. It can vary on two different factors — what's in your order, and how busy the store is.

If there's a bunch of other mobile orders in front of you, it might stretch your pickup time to 10 minutes. But for the most part, it's going to be three to five minutes.

Q: Is there anything you can't order off the app, like packaged food items?

A: You could order everything on the app that you could order in the store. If we run out of something, the app will reflect that. You can customize your order just the way you would in the store.

Q: Is there a separate area where people pick up their orders?

A: You go to the same place you would normally pick up your order. It will have your name on it. It will know your name from your loyalty account. Or you can go up and ask if you don't see it.

Q: This has been in Portland for about nine months now. What percentage of orders now come through mobile order-and-pay there?

A: We're not breaking out the number yet.

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