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Starbucks has finally launched mobile ordering in its hometown of Seattle today, so I no longer have to be jealous of Portland, where it’s been live for the past three months.

Without delay, GeekWire’s Taylor Soper and I went to the nearest Starbucks in the Fremont neighborhood to document the experience.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 10.52.08 AMThe service went off without a hitch, and within minutes of ordering my breakfast sandwich and a trendy Flat White coffee from the Starbucks iPhone app, I picked up my order at the counter — still piping hot.

The best part? I never had to wait in line, which on some mornings can be torture before getting your caffeine fix.

As of today, Starbucks’ Order & Pay is now live in 650 cafes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, so if you live in one of those states, there’s a good chance a cafe is near you to try it out. There are two major exceptions: It’s not live yet in grocery stores and airport Starbucks, and Android users will have to wait for an app update coming in the second half of this year.

For a complete demonstration, watch the video embedded above, or here’s a quick overview:

Once you’ve downloaded the most recent version of the Starbucks app, it will automatically identify that you are in a market with Order and Pay. Click on “Order” at the top right of the screen; select the food and beverage items; modify size, number of espresso shots, dairy selections and more; select the store where you want to pick it up to view approximate wait times; and, finally, confirm the purchase by clicking “order.”

On future visits, your previous order will be displayed at the top of the app, making it a breeze to re-order your favorite items.


When the order is ready, the barista will call your name. In today’s case, I arrived after the order was prepared, so it was waiting for me at the counter.

Order & Pay is not for everyone

Some may people enjoy browsing the refrigerator case to select the best-looking pastries, and others may prefer having a casual conversation about the weather with their barista. But if you want your coffee fast and fuss-free — which I believe Starbucks is ideally suited for — than this feature could really grow on you.

Apparently, Order & Pay would also not work in just any coffee shop.

After launching a similar service five months ago, Square, a San Francisco-based mobile payments company, said it would be shuttering its order-ahead feature on March 20. It simply never took off in the small independent coffee shops where it was being tested.

Starbucks has declined to say how well the Portland pilot has gone, other than it has met or exceeded its expectations, but says it is hoping the feature will lead to an increase in sales, with baristas spending more time making drinks and less time at the register.

That’s something shareholders will undoubtedly want to hear about tomorrow at the company’s annual shareholder’s meeting. We’ll be there live reporting on what Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz has to say about Order & Pay and its other digital initiatives.

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